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Pan de Sal and its many variations..


Pan means bread, sal is Spanish for salt. Basing from these two words, you should know that pandesal during the Spanish Era did not taste anything close to our modern day Pandesal... It is salty and crusty..

Check this old formula i got from the Asian Baking Institute book;

bread flour                       100%
yeast                                   1%
sugar                                   6%
salt                                   1.8%
shortening or lard                 4%

The average range of salt is from 1.5 - 1.75%, for you to taste the sugar in the bread, it has to be at least (philippine current standards, not the 50's or even 80's) 18%. The formula above has 1.8 % salt, you can definitely taste the salt here. I was told by an old acquaintance that during those times, the pandesal really has a detectable and pronounced salty flavor, this eliminates the need for "palaman" fillings of some sort since the Spanish colonists have a monopoly of the sugar industry, only the rich can afford these "palaman".

I am not an expert in the history of this bread but i can tell from the recipe itself that this is one crusty pandesal, very little fat, no eggs, very little sugar, i mean, granting that the salt is at 1.8%, and i use 18% sugar, the salt will hardly be noticed at all. This bread is meant to be eaten the day itself, unless you use the Sponge and Dough method.

Breads as i was told have more flavor before than now, the "levadura" or "sponge, starters" were used by the old bakers to add that yeasty flavor to the breads and aid in the proofing as well.The Espanyols who owned large mansions had these "pugons" (hearth) built, taught the local folks to bake breads 'mano-mano" (by hand since mixers only came when the G.I JOES entered the scene) thus, we have all sorts of breads starting with the word pan, such as.

pan de sal, and the original spelling is like this, divided into 3 words, not like how we spell it today
pan de pugon (baked in hearth oven)
pan de monggo (red mongo bean paste)
pan de silang   (i have no idea)
pan de limon (small soft buns)
pan de ciosa (egg rich sweet yeast dough loaf or braided)
pan de pinya ( designed with spikes)
pan de coco (yes, with sweet coconut filling)
pan de agua (no, it does not have water as a filling, similar to a hotdog bun) etc etc...
there is also, Senorita, Kalihim, Pinagong, Pacencia, Kababayan and many other Filipino flour based treats....

Nowadays, the battle is on for the best pan de sal. Your bakery is only as good as the pandesal you sell. You can see one straight narrow street in Tondo, Manila with at least 4 pandesalan or bakery and each of this will claim theirs is the best pandesal.

Even i have been caught in this pandesal frenzy when i first started baking my own version. Took me quite a long time to finally come up with at least 5 basic pandesal recipe, and i bake each depending on who will eat them. That is my advantage.

When i had the pleasure of teaching Mrs. Isabella Suntay how to bake breads,  (sister of Danding Cojuangco) she told me how she had searched for her mother's favorite baker in Bulacan because the pan de sal we buy today was just too sweet for her. I taught her how to compute the baker's percent and told her she can now make her own bread and reduce the sugar.

cutting the pan de sal after the "baston" (log) is the fastest way to portion a large batch.

The dough shows off some flecks of malunggay (greens).
inside the proofing room

size has doubled and ready for not drop, nor tap the baking pan or you will lose the carbon dioxide you waited 2 hours to build up in the dough.

Filipinos prefer the crust in two ways, crusty and crispy (malutong) or soft and light brown in color... i kinda like the latter because crispy crusts for me are like bagutte style or country loaves artisan....
let the pan de sal be soft for once...another thing i notice (after so many kilos of pan de sal) is that dark golden brown crusts tend to go dry faster. if you are planning to store them for up to 4 days, you will be sorry... 

I am posting here images of one Pandesal dough made-up and baked in two different ways. Pandesal A is shaped individually, B is cut baston style but not "singkit". The dough has a high hydration rate, an improvised plastic dough cutter was used. If you have read the post on how to roll the baston and cut the "singkit" style in my website, then this is a follow-up on how important it is to create the perfect "singkit" cuts, etc.

This is not the "singkit " cut you want. The cut is open and wide, once the dough bakes, it will flatten and spread out.

This is the "singkit" cut you want, again as i have posted before, my apologies to my Chinese students and friends, this is the term i learned from the bakers at Purefood's, i did not coin it myself. In my ebook, i included 70 images on how to do the baston and singkit cut, plus another version of the Pandesal free style shape or form.

Pandesal A, shaped individually is rounder on top and has a finer grain structure. Pandesal B on your right is flatter and wider, the texture of the grain is coarser and drier. Now Pandesal A is baked 5 minutes less than Pandesal B, which contributes to the darker crust color.

Day 4 and the bread on the left is still soft (i used a sponge) but the Pandesal that was cut and baked needs to be reheated to soften it up. Pandesal A would reach this stage probably on its 7th or 8th day, while Pandesal B should be removed from the shelves (if you are selling them).

This is the reason why baking Pandesal crispy "malutong" on the outside is never a choice for me when i was selling breads back home. The breads are meant to be eaten on the day it was baked only, and not meant to be packaged and sold for distribution, say in smaller "sari-sari" stores or groceries. "Lugi ka" if you think about it, unlike when you shape or mold it individually, or make the singkit cut perfect and bake them light brown, not golden brown. Go to your grocery aisles, do you notice how pale the Pandesal you buy are?

Well, this post answers your question. The more time it spends baking inside the oven, the breads lose moisture. That simple.

Yes, to those who are asking if you can use a sponge to make the best ever Pan de Sal. Not only will the rolls be larger in volume, the flavor will be exceptional, shelf life extended. To Marge, my friend sorry i am posting this only now, you can use any kind of sponge you want to use, 50 60 70% sponge flour is fine.
There is a huge difference when cutting with a plastic and wooden dough cutter. Find out how you can perfect this baston in my Ebook. See how the dough is tapered on both ends, making the "singkit" style of cut. There are 70 images in the ebook on how to make this baston, and another recipe Pandesal B using the freeform style.
My proofing area is a separate closed room, this is why you cannot see any sheet cover etc., The window allows me to peek through the rising dough. Very convenient, a welcome surprise when i had this bakery/proofing room built.

Visible signs of the cuts on top of the Pan de Sal, another indicator that you did a good job, the consistency of the dough is perfect, did not flatten at all. I did practice maybe 3 times before i was able to perfect this. Check out old postings on Pan de sal in this blog, especially the Malunngay Pan de Sal..

Whole Wheat Pandesal and Carrot Pandesal

Just don't tell the kids you added carrots to this pandesal and they will not notice, the color is absolutely gorgeous orange and salmon, soft and fluffy in texture, and personally i do not mind the carrots in the bread itself.

The Whole Wheat version, is just what the name says, with whole wheat. I use both the coarse or cracked wheat and fine whole wheat flour in this recipe. How do you do it? Use your regular recipe and add some whole wheat into the dough, if you want a more scientific approach, use 20-30 % whole wheat in place of the bread flour. Most whole wheat you buy in the market is added with vital wheat gluten, this is because whole wheat flour does not contain gluten so the quality of the loaves suffer. The vital wheat gluten is added to strengthen the dough's structure so it won't collapse. If you are making whole wheat pandesal, honestly, i do not need this vital wheat gluten, as shown in the image above. That is the beauty of being able to make your own bread.

 Adding the grated carrots. Some carrots do taste woody and bitter, so get a bite first and taste if it is sweet enough.

Shreds of grated carrots in the dough. This is actually the first lie i told my nephews. I lied about the pandesal having carrots, i just told them it is food color that went streaky. No, i do not feel guilty if the lie is as good as this one.

Some do not like the bitter slightly off aftertaste when they chew on whole wheat breads. To mask this, most resort to what else, sugar, so in a way, the breads do not end up on a healthy note. It is suppose to be a nutritious alternative remember? The whole wheat bandwagon is spinning out of control, at least as far as i think it is, sugar free this, and low carb this. It is still flour, flour is carbs and it has sugar. If i can only suggest, if you really intend to get the wholesome benefits of a whole wheat bread, buy one that is not sweet, or bake it yourself using the lowest level of sugar you can manage.

If you can tolerate a low 4% sugar, the better. If you cannot, then make a compromise and work your way up from 4% to 10%. I think going higher than 10% is a waste of time, you might as well just buy one from the groceries because buying your own whole wheat flour and storing them cost a whole leg!

To eat a very sweet whole wheat bread is like sneaking into your closet and smoking a cigarette. Why bother? This whole wheat pandesal has a story and that is why i am writing it here. One time i got a call from a student telling me that he got my number from Dra Belo. I did not bother asking who this Belo was, but when he showed up in class, i was surprised to see that it was the actor, Carlos Morales. Later that day, i got a call from Ding, one of my former students asking me what the friend of Vicky look like. I asked him "Vicky who" ba? Sinong Vicky? Eh di si Vicky Belo! Ha? So it turned out that he paid her a visit one time and brought with him a bag of this whole wheat pandesal, i mean using  the recipe that we did in one of our sessions.  Ding Mercado is one of the New Minstrels singer.
sponge and dough pandesal


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