Monday, August 1, 2011

Cuban Bread


Like my Banh-Mi post, I'm going to do the bread and sandwich separate for the Cubans I made today.

This bread makes the whole "Cuban sandwich" experience unique in that because it has lard in it (yes, lard in bread, who knew?) the bread doesn't travel well. So, if you aren't in the vicinity of Miami or Tampa, you're not eating a "real" Cuban when you get one at a restaurant that doesn't make their own bread.

I'll get into my opinions on the sandwich in the next post, but suffice it to say, this bread really does make the sandwich. Once it's grilled and pressed it has an amazing texture - crumbly, soft and crisp and buttery, almost sweet. It's outstanding.

I found a recipe on tasteofcuba.com and tried to follow it completely. My only concern was the kind of yeast I used (rapid rise verses active dry) but it turned out fine, so I'll just relay the steps as I did them.

It was actually a pretty easy recipe and was reasonably on par, time-wise and effort-wise to making pasta.  

If you're a fan of Cuban sandwiches as I am, you'll do well to give this a shot.

Cuban Bread

STARTER
3/4 tsp active dry yeast (I used rapid rise)
1/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup bread or all-purpose flour

DOUGH
4-1/2 tsp active dry yeast (I used rapid rise)
1 Tbsp sugar
1-1/2 cups warm water
4 Tbsp lard or solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 batch starter (see above recipe)
1 Tbsp salt
5 cups bread or all-purpose flour, may vary

==

I started with the starter. Again, I'm not sure I even needed this step, but I'm not Alton Brown and the little research I did on the two different yeasts left me without answers, so I went for it. Like I said, it turned out good, so I'll just leave it as is.

Combine:

3/4 tsp active dry yeast (I used rapid rise)
1/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup bread or all-purpose flour

in a bowl and whisk to combine. Store in the fridge overnight.

Yeast and water

Flour added

Put it in the fridge
==

The next morning, the starter is bubbly.

You're going to need half of this for the bread so you can freeze the rest if you want to make another batch. I ended up making some of the Vietnamese baguettes with a little more leftover yeast. Yeah, 6 loves of bread in the house right now. 


Get the 4.5 tsp of yeast along with 1 tablespoon of sugar into a bowl (preferably whatever you'll be mixing in).

Add in 3 tablespoons of warm water. Stir well. 

Let this sit for 10 minutes.


Pour this yeast mixture into the bowl of your mixer (or you could have just started in the mixer bowl, like I should have).


Add 1-1/2 cups warm water, 4 Tbsp lard or solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature, 1/2 your starter mixture and then 1 Tbsp salt.

Then add 5 cups bread or all-purpose flour, one cup at a time as you mix it until it's dough-like.


It may stick like crazy and crawl up the hook. 


Crawl
You can either babysit it in the mixer for 10 minutes or you can turn it out.

I turned out the dough onto the counter at this point and dusted it with flour.

You want it to be moist and soft, but not sticky. I kneaded the dough for 10 minutes and lightly floured it every minute or so as it got sticky. I found that doing it by hand was the only way I could get the texture right each time before adding more flour. 


Soft like this.

Dust it like this. 
When the 10 minutes was up, I put it in a lightly greased mixing bowl to rise for 45 minutes. Cover it with a towel.


BAM!
 Punch it down and turn it out onto a floured surface.


Cut it into 4 even balls. Weighing would be ideal here.


Form them into long narrow tubes and lay them out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Let them rise for an hour, covered.


BAM!
Slice with a razor blade down the length of the loaves. 


Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.


They should be hard on the outside and sound hollow when tapped. 

Let them cool on a rack until able to be handled.

Stand by for the Cuban Sandwich!

EDIT:

I just made another batch of these today and decided to make half the dough into smaller loaves. 

It turned out great! I'll probably make cubans with the smaller ones to see how they turn out with more surface area. 

I also noticed that my loaves came out much more browned this time. No idea why! Just goes to show how cooking can vary from kitchen to kitchen and person to person, considering I'm only one person in the same exact kitchen. 

Anyway, hope you like the bread!




Enjoy!

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