how the east was won, pt. 1


today is discovery day, the anniversary of ferdinand magellan's "discovery" of guam in 1521. of course, one should question how he could have discovered an island that was clearly already found and inhabited, but eh, anything for another holiday, right?

although magellan sailed under the spanish flag as a citizen of said country, he was actually portuguese. the portuguese explorers of the 15th through 18th centuries were a prolific and busy bunch, covering most of the pacific--vasco da gama landed in india, jorge alvarez in china, magellan in the marianas and the philippines, pedro fernandes de quieros in vanuatu, cristóvão de mendonca in australia, everyone in malacca....suffice it to say, the portuguese made their presence known.

i could probably make a case for the argument that the greatest contribution the portuguese made to asia was the introduction of potash, which is an important component for iron-making, and therefore the making of guns and firearms, but ugh, borrrring. however, potash in another form and completely different strength is a leavening agent, a form of baking powder. so, i rather weakly bring you the idea that the most important thing that the portuguese brought to asia is bread. not just any bread, but sweet bread, and sweet cake. in almost every major asian culture where the portuguese were found, sweet bread and sponge cake are staples in the cuisine. you will find these items in countries where wheat isn't even produced, where lactose intolerance is the norm, where the portuguese words for bread, pao and pan, are the same words in asian languages. now that's power, nenes.

*yawn*. blahblah. magellan was only on guam long enough to burn down a village, kill a few folks and steal a bunch of food, so there isn't actually any direct influence on the baked goods here. the major influence in the philippines was through spain, but i do believe that the sweet yeast breads that are common throughout the country actually originated with the portuguese explorers. pao doce/pan dulce, or, "sweet bread", is a mildly sweet, eggy and quite soft (unlike the more brioche-like spanish version) and is the base for many filipino confections.

for the next few days, i shall explore the lovely world of portuguese sweet breads in asia and the pacific, because it's my blog, fools.

spanish rolls3

i'm also doing this because i'm convinced that there are so many traditional recipes that are endangered by homogenization and modern conveniences, they need to be not only written down but made available to anyone who wants "the real thing". while i don't claim that any of these recipes are authentic, they are as close to what i remember as the real deal. the first of these recipes is for something rather ironically called spanish rolls, which i am absolutely convinced is endangered, because i had difficulty obtaining each and every one of the six recipes i *did* find, and only one of them was a keeper (and that was tweaked endlessly). these are soft, tender, and slightly elastic rolls, pale yellow from egg yolks and butter, sweet from sweet butter and sugar incorporated in the dough, and from the sweet butter and sugar mix spread upon the dough. they are then formed, and rolled in breadcrumbs before baking. fresh out of the oven they are irresistible, and truly complemented by a café con leche or thick, rich hot chocolate.

spanish rolls

1 to 1 1/2 packets of yeast
1/4 c warm water
1/2 c milk
1/2 c melted butter
1/3 c sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tsp salt
3-3 1/2 c all purpose flour

filling (optional)
3/4 c breadcrumbs
1/2 c brown sugar
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

extra breadcrumbs

dissolve yeast in warm water. in a bowl, combine milk, butter, sugar, egg yolks and salt. blend well then add the yeast mixture and enough flour to make a moderately stiff dough. transfer dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. place dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until double in bulk.

punch down dough then divide into equal pieces. combine all the ingredients for the filling. roll out each dough into a small rectangle. brush with butter then spread with some of the filling (or you can just sprinkle a little sugar on the butter or omit this step). roll up, then cover in breadcrumbs. place seam side down on greased baking sheets. let rise until doubled in bulk again then bake in a preheated 325˚F oven for 20 minutes or until lightly brown.

cheese rolls

similar, but not the same: kt from blue and yellow kitchen's cheese rolls. sweet and savoury, and thoroughly addictive.


Ahhh, your roll looks like a snail (the first roll photo)! Using breadcrumbs is an interesting touch.

Santos - beautiful shots, I'm dreaming of the blue sky (and the spanish rolls)...

Quality idea Santos, quality. Nagasaki is famous for the yellow sweet and spongey Castella cake and, of course, it's intricately tied in with its history. If you don't get to it, I might nick your idea for a post later.

oh, they look so good! Never heard or thought of using bread crumbs like that before - great idea! Great history lesson too!

Wow, I'm really looking forward to a pan dulce recipe. When I went to Mexico for a month, I ate those almost everyday. Sweet bun, sugary topping and freshly ground coffee on the side? Yum!

Hey Santos,

Thanks for posting this recipe for Spanish rolls. You mentioned it a while back, so I was surprised to see it finally appear! I'm going to try to make this and I'll let you know how it compares to what I had at Nanding's.

hi jocelyn--it does :-) it is :-)
hi keiko--thank you! me too :-)
hi anthony--g'head, you are more than welcome to it, i can't even get to my other posts on bread let alone cake.
hi cathy--they are really good, just lightly sweet and really irresistible straight out of the oven.
hi jessica--i am focusing on portuguesse sweet bread but they are very similar to the mexican ones. i think the one you are thinking of is concha which has a sugary crumbly topping, yes? i love those! i'll try to find a recipe for you.
hi reid--this is actually the recipe i was going to make when you mentioned the nanding's bakery spanish rolls, but i promptly lost it. i found a few others but they weren't very good; this one was definitely the best! let me know how it turned out.

Santos, you are doing a brilliant thing here. Not only do these breads look magnificent, but they dovetail nicely with my current research, in which I chase egg-enriched breads and cakes across continents and eras. You are getting me off to a bang-up start. Many thanks, my friend! :)

ah lovely bakerina! thank you for stopping by. i look forward to reading and learning from your eggy cake essays!

Hi Santos,
I tried your spanish rolls and they turned out beautiful. Reminded me so much of the ones I had at an aunt's house in the Philippines more than a decade ago! I made the dough in the evening and let it rise overnite in the fridge. The baked rolls stayed soft and moist for a good number of days. Keep up the great blogging. I love your site cos' it's full of creative ideas and you have such a great gift of writing!!

hi judy! yay! they are really good, aren't they? i'm glad they worked out for you. next time i'll try what you did--rising them in the fridge--so i can have them warm and fresh in the morning. thank you so much for the lovely compliments, if there's any recipe you are looking for, just let me know.

Hi Santos! I'm taking you up on your offer. My daughter loves pan de sal. We just found a shop selling these fluffy little pillows - at the rate my daughter scarfs them down, wish I could make them at home. Would you happen to have a recipe for them? Thanks so much & keep up the great blogging!

hi judy! i have a great recipe, i'll just have to dig it up :) i'll put it up in the next few weeks.

I came across you’re page accidentally I one of my travels on the web.
It’s wonderful!
As I am a cooking lover you’re photos and recipes fascinate me.
I would like very mach to try and make the “ Spanish rolls” but since I live on a whole other part of the globe I have no idea who mach yeast there are in a packet.
If you can translate it for me to spoons or any othr measurement.

Hi Santos,

Sha of wanderlust kindly passed me your link. I remember this in my tiny years in Phils. I can still remember the taste! thanks to your photo!

Also, i'm not much of a baker. I'll re-phrase that... i'm not a baker - sounds better. But the recipe looks easy enough. I will try this soon (fingers crossed!).

I love your site.

hi e! omg, i have no idea when you commented but you can find conversions/equivalents for yeast measurements here. sorry if it has taken forever to get to you!

hi mae gabriel--thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. i've visited your blog, and plan to visit regularly!

Hi, I came across your site by accident, I was born and raised on Guam for about 30 yrs. we moved because we are in the military. I remember this Spanish rolls it just brings back memories of Guam. Thanks for posting it, i will try to make it for a potluck. I like your site.

Hey there,
I was born and raised on Guam, and I now live in Florida(military said so), and this morning for some reason I started to dream of spanish rolls. Everytime I go home (Guam) I buy enough to feed about ten people. No one can touch except me of course. Unfortunately, this wasn'tthe first time I craved them enough to dream of it. I atually went to seven different bakeries and none of tem had a clue of what I was talking about. I love this site. My new favorite. Thanks!

I'm not sure if you still check comments on posts this old, but I've had this recipe bookmarked for quite a while and am just now getting serious about trying it! I love Spanish rolls... I'm Filipina-American from Hawaii and the Spanish Rolls from Nanding's are how I fell in love. Approximately how many rolls will the recipe make? Thanks!

hi! i made medium-sized ones (about 6 inches) and i believe i got 18 out of the recipe. it has been so long! i'm not sure, sorry!

Hi! I'm just wondering whether you used active dry yeast or instant for this recipe? Also, I notice no sugar for the yeast mixture. Will the absence of sugar not affect yeast activation? (Forgive me, I am a very novice baker.)

Also, how many teaspoons are there in one packet of yeast? Where I'm from, instant yeast is sold in 500 gram blocks and active dry yeast is sold in unmarked plastic bags.

Would appreciate your reply as I'm quite excited to try your recipe. :)

hello carlo! thank you for stopping by. you can use sugar to help the yeast along, certainly! i learned this recipe before i started really experimenting with breadmaking, and have never really adjusted it but if you have tried and true tricks then apply them by all means, you should have a superior product.

one packet of dry granule yeast is usually 2 1/4 teaspoonfuls of yeast, but sometimes 2 1/2 tsps. if you are feeding the yeast with sugar then you'll probably need less.

good luck!

Hi again! Just to let you know that I tried baking the rolls today. They were quite good! Soft, and the filling added just the right amount of sweetness to the bread.

I made mini rolls. Came out to about 28 pcs.

Pretty hard to stop popping them in your mouth. They're quite addicting! Thanks for sharing this recipe. :)

excellent! glad it worked out for you!