Kuya’s Pan de Sal

Just a quick note from me to let everyone know that I won’t be baking the bagels today.  Unfortunately, I have managed to infect a (very) small hand wound, probably when I gardened over the weekend.  I woke up yesterday with a sore left arm and swollen armpit lymph nodes, so I just knew a trip to the Doctor’s was needed.  She’s put me on antibiotics for seven days, with a stern warning to come back this Friday if things don’t get better.  I’ve got my left hand bandaged to within an inch of its life, so kneading is obviously not an option.

The culprit. Yes, it’s my left palm buried under all of the Band-Aid.

While I’m out of commission, I thought I would share a recipe passed down from my uncle, who used to own a bakery in my hometown.  I think I’ve mentioned before that neither Mr Meagre nor I were born here, and even though Australia is our home, I still fondly remember waking up to the smell of freshly baked Pan de Sal.  (Of course, the experience of riding a carabao who suddenly decides to bathe in the mud will not be topped.  I just happen to prefer the smell of bread over the stench of the mud bath.)

These bread rolls are akin to Dinner Rolls or Baps — although most Filipinos would usually have them freshly baked for breakfast, slathered with a bit of butter (or margarine) or a slice of cheese, with hot, black coffee.  They were always a hit with the locals on New Year’s Day, because by then most people will have gotten tired of eating the rich, celebratory food of the holidays and just want to go back to a simple breakfast.

Pan de Sal

Kuya’s Pan de Sal

Makes 12 bread rolls

(Big Brother’s “Salt Bread” or “Bread of Salt”)


5 grams instant dry yeast

500 grams baker’s (bread) flour

10 grams salt

75 grams sugar

285-300 grams water

15 grams mild olive oil*
about 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs for rolling

*Traditionally, vegetable oil was used.  However, most modern recipes call for melted butter and sometimes an egg is added.  Both of these seem to improve the keeping qualities of the bread.  In the olden days, I don’t suppose it was necessary — the bread was baked fresh every day at the baker’s.


  1. Mix the dough according to your preferred method.  For this bread, I often use the bread machine on the normal dough cycle (or pizza dough if I am in a rush).
  2. After the first rise, divide the dough into two and roll each portion into a log about 1.5 inch in diameter and a foot long.
  3. Roll the logs in breadcrumbs.  The dough should be slightly tacky, allowing the breadcrumbs to stick slightly.
  4. Rest the logs for about five minutes.
  5. Cut each log into pieces roughly 1-1.5 inch thick.  There will be around 12-14 rolls for this recipe.  The target weight is about 25-30 grams per roll, if you prefer to scale it.
  6. Roll each dough piece in breadcrumbs and lay on a baking sheet cut side up.  As the dough is proofing, it will get that oval outline on top which is typical of the pan de sal.
  7. Proof the rolls for about 30-45 minutes.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at about 185 degrees Celsius (my conventional oven dial says 190C but the thermometer reads closer to 183 degrees Celsius.
  9. The rolls will turn a light golden brown when they are done (in about 18 minutes), but some people prefer them a little more toasted.
  10. Serve warm with some butter, cheese, or your preferred filling.  These rolls are best eaten on the same day.

I hope you try them and let me know what you think.  I will be mixing up some No-Knead Batter Rolls today to top up the bread tin.  My daughter likes them in her lunchbox too — she refers to them as “that hat bread”.


Misc Pics:  February

Here are a few photos of what I’ve been up to in the past week.

We’ve been picking a good mix of hot chillies from the garden. Clockwise from top left: Bhut Jolokia (a.k.a. Naga or Ghost Pepper) was the world’s hottest chilli for two years; Jalapeno (usually picked green and pickled); Rocoto chilli which survives our winter and gives an extended harvest of chillis with big black seeds; Rumba which turns from deep purple (almost black) to bright red when ripe; Bird’s Eye, popular in Thai dishes; and Cayenne Long Thin which is usually dried and ground for the pantry.

We went to the semi-annual Werribee Park Heritage Orchard grafting day. WPHO is a non-profit heritage fruit orchard run entirely by volunteers. They hold their major fund-raising event twice a year: a summer budding day in February (mostly stonefruit), and a winter grafting day in July (nearly all other fruits but notably apples/cherries/quinces/pears). This year I also saw a lot of established cutting-grown grape vines, and one-to two- year old grafted cherry trees, aside from the usual grafted apples, nectarines, apricots and plums.
Waiting in the queue for rootstock and scion. For the price of rootstock ($12) and your chosen scion ($3 per variety), you can ask them to graft a fruit tree to your specifications. I have seen them graft single varieties, two varieties (e.g., two Euro plums which will pollinate each other), and sometimes even as many as five on a single tree! Grafting is free and you can ask a lot of questions while they graft your tree on-the-spot. Seriously, where else can you buy a fruit tree for as low as $15 these days? Or you can just grab some scion to bring home and graft, and hang around to watch the grafting demonstrations.
A market stall selling fresh fruit and vegetables, books, and preserves, just beside the Old Homestead. This is what greets you at the grafting day. There is also a CWA sausage sizzle stand (it’s not an Aussie event without a sausage sizzle!), and a tour of the orchard.
Back home, I made up two batches of pizza scrolls for tea and the lunch box. I used my basic soft dough recipe, added about half a cup of flour, and reduced butter to 70 grams. The result is a supple dough that can be rolled out and filled. Great for the freezer too.

What have you been doing this past week?

Ensaymada (Sweet Cheese Brioche)

On a recent visit to the library, I brought home a book called 7000 Islands.  The author, Yasmin Newman, writes about growing up in Sydney and being exposed her mum’s Filipino heritage by way of its cuisine.

Getting everything ready.

I started flicking through the pages today to see which recipe I can try, bearing in mind that I needed to fill the bread tin.  I could not have picked a better recipe to start with!  This buttery, sweet, cheese-topped brioche, fondly called Ensaymada, is a real star.  Here is her recipe.

After the first rise.  Cutting the dough into 12 to fit my paper-lined cupcake tin.

Filling the flattened dough balls with softened butter and grated cheese, and rolling them up like logs.

Shaping like snails, and into the tin for proofing.

Swirly dough balls have doubled, ready for baking!

Cooling in tins.  Time to cream the butter and sugar, and grate some more cheese.

Assembly time.  I might have licked the buttercream-filled spoon afterward.  Oops.

Ta-daaa!  Ready to devour.

Eating this today brought back memories from my youth.  I hope you give it a go.  Best with a cup of hot, black coffee and some company to chat with.