I have very real love for breakfast. But among all the breakfast foods I enjoy, I have to say there is nothing quite like a hot piece of pan de sal in the morning. A perfect pan de sal is super soft, light, and airy, with a slightly crunchy exterior. It has just a hint of sweetness that will allow you to eat it on its own or as a sandwich bread. I know people who can scarf down a dozen pieces of pan de sal in one sitting armed with just a piping hot mug of coffee. Regretfully I am not one of those people, because my stomach capacity will only allow me 6 at most even when I’m absolutely famished. Typically, I manage to eat 3 and I’m a happy camper already!
Pan de sal, sometimes spelled as pandesal, is the quintessential Filipino bread. All over the country, you find people eating it in every different way. A lot of high-end Filipino restaurants have already managed to create special gourmet sandwiches using their own versions of pan de sal as the bread, which just shows you how important this piece of bread is around here. Luckily, pan de sal is available pretty much everywhere in the country; a staple of every hole-in-the-wall home bakery round every street corner. Anybody feeling hungry in the middle of the day can step out for a few minutes and come back with a bag of pan de sal.
But just because it is widely available doesn’t mean all of it is made the same way. In truth, there are some pan de sals that are so overcooked or old it is literally as hard as a rock. I am not even joking when I say you can chuck it at someone and it will hurt. It’s fairly easy to see if the pan de sal isn’t good quality. Typically the top of the pan de sal will be a very dark, almost black shade of brown, and it will have a hard shell.
The pan de sal you want should be like the one I’m sharing with you today: a bread with cloud-like softness, squishy and airy, chewy and delightful to munch on. Leave it in the oven to brown for a bit, or toast it when you’re ready to eat, to allow it to develop its crust and it’ll be absolutely perfect! It’s just lightly sweetened so you can sandwich it with anything or eat it au naturel, which also happens to be one of my favourite ways to eat it too!
The normal way most Filipinos eat pan de sal is by using it to sandwich pancit canton or every other type of noodle available; others are content with just filling them with jam, margarine sprinkled with sugar, mini hotdogs, scrambled eggs, corned beef, Spanish-style sardines… Oh, and liver spread. Can’t forget that one! And then there are those who use it to sandwich ice cream– particularly queso ice cream, or avocado ice cream, but absolutely any flavour will taste great, like the classic chocolate ice cream. (It occurred to me just now that I’ve never tried this with cookies & cream ice cream.)
My favourite way to enjoy this type of sandwich is when the pan de sal is still slightly hot, and then you place a giant scoop of ice cream in the center. The play of hot and cold, of soft melty ice cream over fluffy bread is simply incredible. It’s kind of mind-blowing how two simple pantry staples in the homes of nearly every Filipino can create such a delicious treat. Just so you know, ice cream pan de sal sandwiches are one of my absolute favourite comfort foods ever. EVER.
Buuuut more on that later. Obviously you can’t have Filipino-style ice cream sandwiches without the pan de sal first!
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water (about 100 to 110°F)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 5 1/2 cups (750 grams) bread flour, more for dusting
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (90 grams) shortening
- canola oil for greasing a large bowl
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1. To activate the yeast, dissolve it in warm water, then add sugar and let stand for 10 minutes. If the mixture doubles in volume then yeast is active. (It is very important to make sure that yeast is active. Water that is too hot kills the yeast so make sure that the water temperature is around 100 to 110°F.)
- 2. Proceed with the dough by combining flour, sugar, warm water, salt, and shortening in a large bowl. Mix until well combined. You can either use the stand mixer's paddle attachment, or a wooden spoon.
- 3. Add doubled yeast mixture and mix. If the mixture is too wet, add more flour and mix until well combined.
- 4. On a clean surface dusted with flour, knead the mixture into a smooth elastic dough, for about 10 minutes. The dough can be kneaded by hand or in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. To test the dough if it’s ready, pinch a piece off and stretch it into a square. The dough is ready if it’s elastic enough to be stretched into a translucent sheet of dough. If it tears continue kneading.
- 5. Grease a large bowl with canola oil. Place the dough in the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise to about twice its size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- 6. Punch down the dough and knead again to redistribute the yeast. Divide the dough into two large portions. Roll each piece of dough into a rectangular sheet and then roll the sheet into a log, about 20 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Let the dough rest for an hour.
- 7. Using a dough cutter or a sharp flat knife, cut the log into 1-inch thick pieces. * Roll each piece in breadcrumbs, place on a baking tray with the cut side up, about 2 inches apart.
- 8. Sprinkle dough with more breadcrumbs and let the dough rest for one more hour before baking. About 20 minutes before the end of the third rise, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Bake the bread for 20 minutes or until the pan de sal becomes lightly toasted.
- Storage: Pan de sal is best eaten straight out of the oven. However they may last in an airtight container for up to two days without getting too tough. Simply reheat them in the toaster oven before eating. If planning to keep longer, place rolls in a freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to a month. To reheat them, toss frozen rolls in the microwave or toaster oven.
- * Some of my pan de sals are just a little deformed because the knife I used to cut the dough was not sharp enough. (Thus my decision not to include the photo of that step.) Try to avoid the sawing motion when cutting the dough and they should puff up nicely!
Too gorgeous for words!