Pan de sal simply means "bread of salt". It is the staple bread eaten at breakfast in the Philippines. Believe it or not, in the Philippines where rice is the staple food, there are panaderias (bakeries) in every corner selling freshly baked pan de sal from dawn until the late hours.
When I was little, pan de sal used to be delivered to the house each morning. We had a rattan basket hanging from a hook, high up where the neighbour's cat can't reach. This practice became obsolete and it became the househelp's first duty of the day to walk to the local bakery.
Pan de sal is something that the Filipino expatriates miss most. It might not strike non-Filipinos as a unique bread. The mixture is very similar to a basic white yeast dough but sweeter. The difference is that the dough is rolled in breadcrumbs prior to the second rising resulting in a crisp crust and fluffy, soft dough. It goes with any filling but I like it simply with butter so that I can taste the real flavour of the bread.
I miss old fashioned pan de sal. It was crusty, fluffy on the inside and flavoured with the smoke of the wood burning oven. No one seems to make it like they used to. The last time I went home, the pan de sal was from a French bakery.
When I have time or when I have something that tastes best in pan de sal, I make some. This version is enriched with butter, milk and eggs. It really comes out tasting like it came from the panaderia.
Yield: 24 pieces
1 tbsp. of active dry yeast
1/4 c. lukewarm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 c. fresh milk
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsps. salt
1/4 c. melted butter or margarine or cooking oil
4 to 4 1/2 c. plain flour
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the lukewarm water.
Mix the rest of the ingredients, except for the flour, together in a mixing bowl. Add the 3 1/2 c. of the flour and the yeast mixture and mix. Add more flour as needed to make a soft dough. You may not need all of the flour.
Knead for 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes with a mixer fitted with a dough hook. It is ready when it is smooth and elastic and bounces back into shape when pressed.
Put a few drops of oil in a clean bowl. Gather the dough into a ball, roll in the oil in the clean bowl.
Let rest in a warm place, covered with cling film until double in size.
Preheat the oven to 350° F/ 180° C.
Punch the dough down to release excess air. Cut the dough in half then roll into two logs. Cut each log crosswise into 12 pieces and roll in breadcrumbs.
Arrange in baking trays, cut side down, cover with cling film and let rise until again until double in size.
Bake for 15 minutes or until browned.
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