Pan de Sal: Philippine National Bread

Pan de Sal: Philippine National Bread

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Pan de sal, which literally means “bread of salt”, is a typical Filipino bread that is traditionally served as a breakfast roll. It is Portuguese in origin. Pan de sal is made of flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Usually, it is soft, airy, chewy and has a slightly crunchy crust outside. It is commonly referred to as “poor man’s bread” because Pan de sal becomes the cheaper alternative for rice during the war era. These days now, you can find variety of pan de sal everywhere like raisin pan de sal, whole wheat pan de sal, cheese pan de sal, vegetable pan de sal, but nothing beats the original home-made plain pan de sal.

Most of us Filipinos cannot spend a day without eating pan de sal. You can have it anywhere at anytime and is available pretty much everywhere in the country. All over the country, you can find people eating it in different ways but the normal way most Filipinos eat pan de sal is by dipping it into a hot coffee, just like what Filipinos say “Walang matigas na Pandesal sa mainit na kape”. You can do many things with it. You can make Pan de sal pizza or make sweet treats like spreading it with strawberry jam, peanut butter, margarine or butter sprinkled with sugar, condensed milk, melted chocolate or even ice cream. 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 is best served hot. Even cold, pan de sal is a favorite snack.

Pan de sals are easy to make, they do take time but I’m sure it’s worth the wait!
First, dissolve 1 tsp. yeast in ¼ cup warm water then add 1 tsp. sugar and let it stand for 10 minutes. Then combine 3 ½ cups of flour, ¼ cup sugar, 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp. salt in a greased large bowl. Mix until well combined. Add doubled yeast mixture and mix. Knead the mixture into a smooth elastic dough, for about 10 minutes. 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. Let the dough rest for about one and a half hour. 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 another hour. Using a dough cutter or a sharp flat knife, cut the log into 1-inch thick pieces then place on a baking tray with the cut side up, about 2 inches apart. Then let the dough rest for one more hour before baking. Preheat the oven to 180 °C. Bake the bread for 20 minutes or until the pan de sal becomes lightly toasted. Well that’s it!

This national bread has become an institution of the Philippine culture. These past years, Filipinos haven’t changed at all. Pan de sal is still the favorite “Bread of Masa”. For Professor Doreen Fernandez, the pan de sal is the bread of our history, at the core of our culture, at the heart of our tastes. Nowadays, the battle is on for the best pan de sal.

/// Written by Jahweh Huerta, The Philippines