There’s nothing more definitive of my childhood breakfast –and I guess, the same goes for many other Filipinos–than pan de sal. The steam escaping out of the brown paper bag from the freshly baked buns, the crumbs getting all over your fingers, the hot, tongue-numbing first bite…I missed every bit of it when we moved here. We eventually found out about Aling Mary‘s where we could get them fresh from the oven, which I remember doing twice. Twice.
As the years went on, I slowly learned how to cook and bake, and eventually baked my own bread. I yearned to make pan de sal. I tried making my own half a decade ago, but they didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. At the beginning of this year, I set out to give it another go. After trying many recipes I found, I STILL wasn’t satisfied the least bit. Some tasted like brioche, others were too dry, and they all basically don’t have the right flavor and texture. It was frustrating, there’s no question about that. I experimented a lot. I wasn’t as lucky creating the recipe as I was when I made another Filipino classic, the mocha cake.
It took me more than 20 batches of pan de sal and a lot of eating before I was finally happy with it. [Huge thanks to the beau J and the kids for putting up with all the not-so-perfect pan de sal iterations!] Then I’ve had a lot of people outside of family taste it over the course of more than 6 months — both Filipinos and non-Filipinos love them. And then when I thought I arrived at my final recipe, I baked pan de sal almost every week, sometimes even twice a week, because we went through 2 dozen buns so quickly during the school weeks (they make awesome lunch sandwiches).
After all that, I think I’m ready (and oh, so pleased!) to share the recipe. Please enjoy and let me know if you’ve made them. I’ve included some photos of the process after the recipe, which I hope will help. If you have questions, just leave a comment below. Cheers.
Addendum: You will notice a not-so-familiar ingredient in my recipe called “Diastatic Malt Powder,” which is used in baking bread — it helps with the bread rise and the crust. You can either:
1. Make them by grinding dried sprouted wheat berries; or
I’ve made my own diastatic malt powder and they are my preferred one to use. I’ll make another post on how to make them next time.
- 1 tablespoon (8 grams) active dry yeast
- 2¼ cups 2% or whole milk, warm (~80°F)
- 75 grams plus 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
- 1 large egg
- 45 grams unsalted butter, melted
- 900 grams unbleached all-purpose flour OR to make Whole Wheat Pan De Sal: use 600 grams all-purpose flour and 300 grams whole wheat flour
- 1½ teaspoon (10 grams) table salt
- 2 tablespoons (12 grams) diastatic malt powder
- 1 to 2 teaspoons vegetable oil (for coating the dough and bowl)
- ⅓ cup of plain breadcrumbs, in a small shallow plate
- Mix active dry yeast, a tablespoon of sugar and warm milk in a medium bowl. Leave it to bloom for 10 minutes. It will get foamy at the top. Whisk in egg and butter, then transfer into a bowl of a stand mixer. Attach a dough hook to your mixer.
- Whisk together flour, salt, malt powder and sugar in a large bowl. Pour half of the mixture into your stand mixer bowl and mix on the lowest speed for 30 seconds, then increase to the next speed setting and mix for 1 minute. Decrease the mixing speed to the lowest setting again and add the remaining flour mixture. Knead in the mixer between the lowest and medium-low setting (depending on your stand mixer instructions for mixing bread dough) until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl and the bowl is basically clean and free of loose flour or sticky dough. The dough will quickly bounce back if lightly pressed with a finger. Detach the bowl from your stand mixer and give the dough inside a few turns with your clean hands, pulling the sides into the center, creating a ball.
- Lift the dough ball and spread the vegetable oil on the bottom and sides of the bowl with a bare hand. Place the dough back inside and turn it in the bowl to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or clean kitchen towel and leave in a warm, draft-free place (an oven that's not turned on would work). Let it rise for 1 hour. The dough will double in size/volume.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, if baking the buns same day.
- Divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape each portion into a ball, tucking the sides into the center until taut. Work each ball by flattening it with your fingertips into an 8" x 6" rectangle. Roll the it tightly along its length (i.e. longer side) and pinch the edges to the roll to seal, and pinch both sides of the roll, leaving you with a compact and sealed cylinder. Slice it crosswise into six 1- to 1.5-inch discs. Dip cut sides into the plate of breadcrumbs and pat to remove excess crumbs. Place each bun cut side down on the lined baking sheet, arranging the buns into 6 x 4. Loosely cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel let them rise for 1 hour. Overnight 2nd rise: If you make this in the evening, you can leave it in the refrigerator overnight for a slow rise, then bake them in the morning. A slow rise gives the dough more time to develop its flavor.]
- Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops of the buns turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it rest in the baking pan propped on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.
- Serve warm or transfer and cool completely on the wire rack before storing in airtight containers or resealable bags.
Keep in airtight containers/bags. Buns will stay fresh for 5 to 7 days at room temperature; and for up to 2 weeks if frozen after cooling. Best reheated in the oven or oven toaster.
What's Diastatic Malt Powder?: It's a natural bread enhancer that helps the bread rise and develop a nice brown crust. You can either:
1. Make them by grinding dried sprouted wheat berries; or
2. Purchase them at a local store or online (Amazon has it). In Vancouver, you can get them from Gourmet Warehouse and Famous Foods.