Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pan de Sal

One of my mother's favorite breads is filipino pan de sal. As the name suggests, it means salted bread. Pan de sal today, is often more sweet than it is salty. This modern pan de sal seems to have made this evolution to make up for the lack of quality ingredients after WWII. My mother isn't fond of the 'new' pan de sal, so this weekend, after a conversation about it, I decided to have a go at making it her way.

Pan de Sal (courtesy of my mother)

1/3 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp sugar
2 packets of active dry yeast (fast rise won't work)
1 tbsp (yes, I did write tablespoon) of salt (we used coarse Korean sea salt, measured the 1 tbsp first, then crushed it with a rolling pin)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 extra large eggs
1 cup hot water (not quite boiling)
5 cups (or more - we used 5.5 cups) of bread flour (or any hard wheat flour)

Step 1 - in a small bowl dissolve the yeast and the sugar into the tepid water, allow to rest until the yeast becomes foamy.

Step 2 - in a mixing bowl, add the eggs, salt, and mix until combined with a whisk or an electric mixer. Using a pouring container, slowly add the hot water to the egg mixture and mix until all the water is added.

Step 3 - add the foamy yeast mixture to the egg mixture and blend. Then add 5 cups of flour adjusting with more if the dough mixture is sticky.

Step 4 - using a dough hook (or your hands), knead the dough until smooth, adding flour as necessary. The dough should be smooth to the touch.

Step 5 - transfer to a bowl and let raise until doubled, about 1.5 hours in our 72ºF kitchen.

Step 6 - after dough has doubled, roll out into a long rope and cut into 16 equal pieces. Form into rolls and place on a greased baking sheet. Allow rolls to proof for 45 minutes to and hour, to about 1.5 times their original size. Preheat oven to 450ºF.

Step 7 - place baking sheet in lower third of oven and spritz the rolls and walls of the oven with water. After a minute passes, open and spritz the rolls and oven again, allow rolls to bake at high temperature for 7-10 minutes, until they are starting to turn brown.

Step 8 - reduce the temperature to 375ºF and bake until golden brown, approximately 10-15 minutes more. Rolls will be golden brown on the bottoms and feel somewhat light rather than heavy.

Step 9 - remove from the oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Mom indicated the rolls were extremely close to what she had remembered getting from her neighbor when she was a little girl in Manila. She did say many people like to roll the pan de sal in old bread crumbs after forming rolls, but she preferred them plain, with just melted butter. They were pretty good - saltier than any other bread I have ever made, but not so salty that it was overwhelming.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A time to be thankful

This time last year, I was celebrating Thanksgiving with some people from work. My husband was still in Ohio and the rest of my family in North Carolina. I didn't think so much would change these past 12 months, I realize there is so much to be thankful for. My mother recovered 99% from a serious illness that almost took her life this past May. My husband finished his engineering degree, after 10 long years of going part time - a great accomplishment for him! Though we did so separately, we safely travelled back from Alaska, to settle back in Ohio since my husband found a really great job there when none could be found in AK (go figure in today's current economic climate.

I am thankful to be close to family again, to have the opportunity to interact with them in and out of the kitchen. I didn't realize until yesterday, that I truly missed being in charge of the family meals, and being able to stand beside my mother and cook this year, made it all the better.

Though my sister and her family couldn't make it to western NC for this holiday, they were with us in spirit. We enjoyed the traditional dishes of thanksgiving: Roasted turkey, stuffing with chestnuts and sausage, carmelized (overly so) yams, honey-glazed carrots, mashed potatoes and gravy, and for dessert, pumpkin roll!

I certainly hope everyone had a happy, joyous, entertaining Thanksgiving Day!