The words hot pan de sal are enough to make any Filipino’s eyes light up. Food can’t get any simpler or more delicious than these small, plain rolls. They’re good for breakfast, lunch, afternoon merienda, or anytime in between. (In a pinch, thy’re good for dinner, too.)
Have them naked and unadorned, or spread with butter, dunked in coffee or hot chocolate, or split and filled with sardines, ham, Spam, corned beef, liverwurst, scrambled eggs, cheese, leftover adobo… Like the Filipino, pan de sal is delightfully agreeable as well as incredibly versatile and adaptable to any situation.
When buying pan de sal, beware of counterfeits. My local Filipino bakery does a brisk trade in large, soft, sweet rolls they call pan de sal. They’re good, but they’re not exactly pan de sal. The real pan de sal, as my mom contends, is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. They’re not sweet, either, but slightly salty. (The literal translation of the name is bread of salt, or salt bread.)
This cold, snowy weekend was a good time to make pan de sal from scratch. I like this recipe because it calls for overnight refrigeration of the dough, so if you want fresh, hot pan de sal for breakfast, you can start it the night before and finish baking the next morning.
Pan De Sal
Makes 12 rolls
2 1/4 cups bread flour (white or a mix of white and whole wheat)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup bread crumbs
In a large bowl, whisk the flour and yeast together.
In a measuring cup, dissolve the sugar and salt in the warm water. Whisk in the vegetable oil.
Add the water mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a large wooden spoon until it just starts to come together. Finish by hand and knead until smooth. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then with a tea towel, and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for about two hours, or until it has doubled in size.
Turn out the dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough into a log about two inches wide.
With a bench scraper, cut the roll into 12 pieces.
Place the pieces cut side up into a plastic container, seal tightly, and place in the fridge overnight.
In the morning, preheat the oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll each piece of dough in bread crumbs and line them up on the sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the sheet, and bake a few minutes more. You are looking for a deep golden-brown crust.
Who knew pan de sal would be so easy to make at home? Betcha can’t eat just one!