Three Guys From Miami: Cuban and Spanish Food Recipes
Glenn Lindgren: The Cubans really got it right when they invented Cuban bread.

Jorge Castillo: With a crisp crust on the outside and a lightly textured inside, a warm, fresh-baked loaf of Cuban bread is the next best thing to heaven.

Glenn Lindgren: Although there are some limited areas of the country where you can get a decent loaf of Cuban bread, (cities like Chicago and Union City New Jersey), the best Cuban bread is made in South Florida. In fact, the "Cuban Bread Line" (the Mason Dixon line of Cuban pastry) stretches across the state just north of Tampa. Stray north of the Cuban Bread Line and you have two chances of getting a decent loaf: slim and none.

Jorge Castillo: Yes, you can find Cuban bread at practically every supermarket in Miami. However, the big chain groceries have never quite gotten it right.

Glenn Lindgren: Although these store-made loaves will do in a pinch, the only place to get the real thing is from a Cuban bread bakery. And if you don't have a Cuban Bakery in your town, you have to make it yourself!

Jorge Castillo: This recipe is the real deal. You CANNOT make Cuban bread without lard. If it doesn't have lard, it's NOT Cuban bread! So please don't substitute!

Glenn Lindgren: In Tampa, they use palmetto leaves to create the seam on top of the bread.

Raúl Musibay: That gives the loaves the classic appearance!

Glenn Lindgren: You can also use a sharp knife and cut a couple of seams the length of the loaf.


Pan Cubano -- Cuban Bread

By Three Guys From Miami



Prep time: 2 hours
Cook time: 18 minutes
Total time: 2 hours 18 minutes
Yield: 1 large wide loaf

With a crisp crust on the outside and a lightly textured inside, a warm, fresh-baked loaf of Cuban bread is the next best thing to heaven.

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 cups bread flour (see instructions)
2 cups all-purpose flour (see instructions)
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup lard (melted in microwave)
2 tablespoons warm water (to brush on loaves before baking)
  1. Grease a large bowl, and set aside.

  2. Take a small bowl and dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1/4 cup of warm (110 degrees F) water. Place the bowl in a warm place and let it stand until it starts to foam and double in volume, about 10 minutes. If it doesn't foam and bubble, you have some bad yeast!

  3. Meanwhile, measure out 1/4 cup of lard and place the lard in a Pyrex measuring cup or other suitable container. Heat in the microwave on high for about 90 seconds until melted.

  4. Place the water/yeast/sugar mixture in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Add the rest of the warm water and the salt. Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until blended.

  5. Take your measuring cup and dig in to the flour bag, scooping out two whole cups of each flour. Now the important part: in a separate bowl, sift together the two flours. Sifted flour has more volume than un-sifted flour, so you will use approximately 3 1/4 cups of sifted flour in the following steps.

  6. Gradually add the flour mixture, a little at a time, to the wet ingredients in your mixer -- mixing constantly. At the same time you are adding flour, gradually pour in the melted lard. Keep adding a little flour and a little lard until all of the lard is added.

  7. Continue adding more flour -- A LITTLE AT A TIME -- until you make a smooth and pliable dough. Try to add just enough flour to make the dough elastic -- just as much as necessary so that the dough hook barely cleans the sides of the bowl. Too much flour and your bread will be too dense! You will use approximately 3 1/4 cups of sifted flour to bring the dough to this point. (More or less, this is where the art of baking comes in!) Save any leftover flour mixture for rolling out the dough.

  8. Now let the machine and the dough hook go to work kneading the dough. Set the mixer on a low speed and knead for about 3 to 4 minutes, no more! Your dough will be fairly sticky at this point.

  9. NOTE: If you don't have a mixer with a dough hook, you can also do this the old fashioned way. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Pound the dough ball down and knead by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic, about ten minutes.

  10. Shape the dough into a ball and place it into that bowl you originally greased in the first step of this recipe, what was that, something like a week ago now? We know, we know -- bread making is a long and involved process!

  11. Flip the dough ball a few times to grease it up on all sides. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm place. (We like to pre-heat our oven to 160 degrees F and then turn it off, thus creating a perfectly warm environment for our rising bread.) Let the dough rise until it doubles in size -- about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

  12. It's at this point in the process that you can usually find three guys, covered in flour, sitting by the pool with their feet up and enjoying a cold beverage. It's also about now when Raúl always asks, "Why didn't we just pick up a loaf of bread at the bakery?"

  13. When you return from the pool, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, using the leftover flour you have in the bowl. Sprinkle some flour on the dough and use a rolling pin to roll it out. We like to make a large loaf, shaped to fit our longest baking sheet diagonally -- about 20 inches long. So we try to roll out a 12 x 20-inch rectangle. Sprinkle more flour on the dough and turn it over a few times as you roll it out, to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin. The added flour at this rolling stage should take care of most of the stickiness of the dough.

  14. Roll the dough up into a tightly rolled long cylinder, with a slight taper at both ends. Wet your fingers and pinch the loose flap of the rolled dough into the loaf, making a tight seam.

  15. Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with cornmeal.

  16. Place the loaf diagonally onto the baking sheet, seam side down. Dust the top with a little extra flour and cover very loosely with plastic wrap. (You don't want the rising dough to dry out or stick to the plastic wrap.)

  17. Place in a warm spot and allow the loaf to stand and rise once again until it is about 2 1/2 times it's original size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cuban bread is wider than French bread, so expect your loaf to spread out quite a bit as it rises.

  18. Preheat oven to 450º F. Place a pan of water on the lowest rack of the oven.

  19. Use a sharp knife to cut a shallow seam down the middle of the top of the bread, leaving about two inches of uncut top on each end of the loaf.

  20. Brush the top of the loaf with water and place in your preheated oven on the middle shelf. After about 5 minutes of baking, brush some more water on top of the bread.

  21. Bake the loaf until it is light brown and crusty -- about 12 to 18 minutes total baking time.

  22. We all know that oven temperatures do vary -- so keep an eye on it!


Baking Bread is an Art

Baking bread, any kind of bread, is truly an art. Baking a perfect bakery-quality loaf of Cuban bread is the ultimate accomplishment for any home bread baker. On the surface, Cuban bread seems so simple; it consists of just five main ingredients: flour, water, yeast, lard, and salt.

The challenge, however, is putting these simple ingredients together in exactly the right way. The goal is to create a loaf with a crisp crust on the outside and an airy, lightly textured inside.

The key to baking a great loaf of Cuban bread is in knowing exactly how much flour to use to bring the dough to the perfect consistency. Too much flour, and the bread will be too dense. Too little flour, and the dough won't rise properly, resulting in a very wide, flat loaf of bread!

If you don't mind a challenge, the quest for that perfect loaf of Cuban bread can be very rewarding.

This recipe and editorial content from: "Three Guys From Miami Cook Cuban" Copyright ©2004 All Rights Reserved.

No copying or commercial duplication of any content (including photos) without the express written permission of the authors and proper attribution.

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