roll with it: from baguette to pandesal and back (eventually).


it was maki who introduced me to that popular no-knead bread recipe; i enjoy a bit of mild pummeling, so it's not for me. it did get me thinking about bread making again, which i used to do on a fairly regular, fairly obsessive basis. i do bake bread occasionally, but have avoided the simplest, yet trickiest one for me: french-style baguettes. i could make very good ones, but the decade i spent away from regular bread baking has made me lose my touch. practice is all it really takes, but it really does take a lot of practice.

imho, the best dough for baguettes is the simplest: hard wheat flour, salt, yeast, water. obvs technique is the key. i still haven't perfected the richard bertinet kneading technique which calls for a wetter dough and a lighter touch, but i'm working on it. one of the things that bertinet recommends if you are a beginning bread baker is that one should try making little rolls or shapes instead of a whole loaf the first time. i was sceptical of this--i thought why not have one big failure instead of a dozen little ones?--but having done it, i concur with mr.b. the dough is easier to work and shape properly, the moisture in the bread dough is wicked away quicker in the smaller masses (which makes for a better crust and overall texture), and it takes less time to cook, for the anxious and excited amongst us.


around the same time i read maki's post, i read my cousin's post on a pandesal bakery in the manila 'burbs of marikina. supposedly they make "authentic" pandesal, which, as sassy says, could be the national bread of the philippines if the philippines had such a thing. the name literally translates to "bread of salt" (pan + de + sal), but almost every version i've had has been sweetish, not particularly salty, and frankly a little meh. neither here nor there--either too soft or too hard, too sweet or just bland. marketman lamented that true pandesal is difficult to find these days; the product of the 'fifties and 'sixties, according to marketman's sister, had a "hard crust, tender airy crumb and...It must have that distinctive crack down the middle." (i imagine that it probably tasted better too.) i found a photo of the pan de amerikana version, but it looks much like what can be found elsewhere. not as soft and spongy as commercial varieties have become, but my gut feeling is that it's not what the spanish or portuguese brought over back in the day. wiki saved the day with an excellent pandesal entry on the probable history complete with ingredients, which funnily enough are the basis for a good french baguette: hard wheat flour, water, yeast, salt. hm.

so, out came the pans and bowl. 500g of flour, 350g of water, 10ml of yeast, 10ml of salt. first, the yeast was dissolved in 100ml of water and left to bloom for 10 minutes. all ingredients then combined and kneaded to make a soft, elastic dough which should be allowed to double in a warm place. like guam, because it doesn't take an hour to do that. dough punched down, divided in half and formed into logs, which are cut with a sharp knife into equal pieces; each piece is placed cut side up on a baking sheet, and again, left to double.

a crispy crust that shatters is easy enough to get with a little steam during baking. the bread bakes in a 475˚F preheated oven--just slide the pans into the hot oven and use a spray gun filled with water to mist the sides of the oven and the tops of the bread with at least 10 squirts. close the oven door, leave for 5 minutes, then mist again. baked for another 15 minutes, the rolls should be golden brown, with a crunchy crust and tender, airy crumb.

pandesal innards

hey it works :)

i don't actually know if this is really like the pandesal of the past so here are some questions for you, if you don't mind. has anyone out there tried traditional pandesal? does this look similar? and is it actually, um, salty in taste?

and for the french bread eaters out there, what is it that you look for in a good baguette?


Well, provincial one that I am, I've no experience with pandesal, and limited French bread options. The two places here I eat French bread from are St. Germaines Bakery and Bali. I like it crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

You make me hopeful that I too can make bread!

I know there must be moisture in the oven to make French break correctly, and squirt gun sounds like a great idea. I think French bread ovens have a mister or something right? I find funny that water makes bread soggy most of the time, except when you want to bake French bread! LOL.

for me,
a good baguette must remain more or less the same the next day and not become rock hard.

the crust shouldn't be too thin and should be crispy. the insides should tear apart with thread-like strands, soft and melt in your mouth.

the yeast taste should not be too strong.

I think the test of any good bread is how does it stand up to a basic butter test. Slather freshly baked bread with good butter and taste. A good pandesal should be just like a good baguette. I do like my pandesals denser than air pocked.

Had a really bad pandesal experience lately, it was harder than rock, probably from being overheated and microwaved ten times before they served it to me. Awful!

acornbud, guam's like, what? a remote suburb of hawaii already...would that make us a province of your province? :) ooh, bali like the banh mi place? yum.

lannae, you can! you can! i know, the squirt gun thing is crazy. i always feel like i'm soaking the bread. you can also try 10 mists x 3 @ 3minute intervals....

minitotoro, i have a problem (well i have lots, but only one concerning this) with keeping the crust crispy without reheating....this doesn't get hard, it gets chewy. still, it's good for a day :)

mila, thanks for the pandesal tips! where did you have this rock of a bread? also, i read marketman's post about pandesal and he said it should be salty....i'm a little worried about that. i don't think i've ever tasted a salty pandesal, have you?

I'm no pan de sal expert though we have it on our breakfast table every morning. It's really one of my favorite breads, and I like mine soft. Dense or light, it has to be soft with a nice crust. Yours looks perfect!

At a new store called Batirol in Serendra. I ordered pandesal with jamon. The jamon was fine but the bread was inedible.

I've never had a really salty pandesal, but I've avoided the sweet ones. Don't like sweet breads.

hi christine, where do you buy your pandesal? do you have a neighbourhood bakery? i miss being able to walk to the neighbours to get the morning bread....

hi mila, batirol? i like the name. did you have tsokolate? i'll avoid their pandesal. i like sweet breads, but only when they are obviously supposed to be sweet. i don't like it when "normal" bread is sweet, though.

the thing i'm having a problem with is that salt is a natural inhibitor of yeast, so if i add too much salt to the bread dough, the yeast doesn't work properly and the bread is much denser. i don't want to make it too "yeasty" though....ah, i guess it's just experiment, experiment, experiment.

Yes, their tsokolate is quite good, and I had the one with cinnamon. I want to try another one with Kahlua next.

I agree, it's going to require a lot of experimentation to get the salt factor right. I wasted several batters of no knead bread because I got my yeast/salt mix all wrong.

--i thought why not have one big failure instead of a dozen little ones?--

pleeeeeeeese be my life coach.

bwaHAAA if i was your life coach it would be like the belle+sebastian discography...the boy done wrong again? what state are you in. has desperation made a fool of you? your cover's blown, in a century of fakers you're suffering the loneliness of a long distance runner. lord anthony, step into my office, baby--it's a nice day for a sulk with your dear catastrophe waitress. if you are feeling sinister, you might have to push the barman to open old wounds. to be yourself completely, ease your feet in the sea, don't spend the summer wasting. it's a roller coaster ride, the life pursuit--all for the price of a cup of tea. i could be dreaming, but we rule the school. and anthony? fold your hands child, you walk like a peasant.

Looks exactly like the pan de sal we have back home in Negros. I hope they still make them. I remember going to the bakery with my mom and buying them hot! Best eaten with kapeng barako (black coffee with lots of sugar!)

i teach breadmaking since 2003 and when i read the post regarding pandesal, i remember the sister of danding cojuangco who became my student last 2005. she laments the fact that there are no good bread out there anymore, particularly pandesal and complained how sweet our breads have become. i told her that she can make her own permutations at the end of our sessions, make her own bread and decide the salt and sugar level of her bread just like i do. a singaporean baking consultant once told us that our pandesal should only have 12% sugar and not 15-18 %. After all, it is pandesal, not pandulce. i think this is the mistake most panaderias make nowadays, they feed on to the consumers' sweet tooth, everything is sweet, spaghetti, ham, bacon etc.,
regarding the crust of the bread, sometimes the heat application creates the specific crust one desires in a bread. when i bake my pandesal, all 100 pieces, i use 375 F for 12 minutes and they are delightfully crispy on the outside. also, the type of flour you use and the richness of the recipe dictate whether your pandesal will be crispy or not after baking.

sarmiento and csher, thanks for sharing your memories and tips!

To me, a great pan de sal is not too big, is light, has a crispy but not thick exterior, is soft and slightly creamy inside, and has a hint of sweetness. It should be good enough to be eaten on its own because it has flavor, unlike some North American and European breads.

give me bread rather than rice anytime.... i just love it...

the best pandesal for me is the one made by Casa Marcos, if memory serves me right they still have a branch in Qc selling just pandesal, near National Book store in Quezon Avenue