Picture yourself strolling through the vibrant streets of Havana, Cuba, with the sun warming your skin and the tantalizing aroma of freshly baked bread filling the air. Cuban bread, a beloved staple of Cuban cuisine, is a simple yet delightful treat that has captured the hearts and taste buds of many. And the best part? You can recreate this mouthwatering experience right in your own kitchen.
Photo by Klaus Nielsen
In this article, we’ll guide you through the steps of making authentic Cuban bread, so you can savor the taste of Cuba wherever you are.
Ingredients you will need
For the starter (sponge):
- 1/2 cup warm water (about 110°F or 43°C)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup bread flour
For the dough:
- 2 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2/3 cup warm water (about 110°F or 43°C)
For the glaze:
- 1 egg white
- 1 tablespoon water
Prepare the starter (sponge)
- Whisk together the sugar, active dry yeast, and warm water in a small bowl. Give it a light stir, then set it alone for about 5 minutes to froth up.
- Once the yeast mixture is frothy, stir in 1/2 cup of bread flour until it forms a smooth paste. This is your starter, and it will help develop the bread’s flavor and texture.
Mix the dough
- In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups of bread flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of sugar.
- Add the starter (sponge) to the flour mixture.
- Gradually pour in 2/3 cup of warm water while mixing. Combine the ingredients with a wooden spoon until a rough dough forms.
Knead the dough
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it for about 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. If the dough is too sticky, you can add a bit more flour as needed.
Let the dough rise
- To prevent the dough from drying out, place it in a bowl that has been greased lightly and cover it with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap.
- Keep the dough in a warm, draft-free area until it has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Shape the loaf
- Once the dough has risen, gently punch it down to release excess air.
- Shape the dough into a loaf by rolling it into a cylinder shape about 12-14 inches long.
Score the bread
- Cut diagonal slashes into the top of the loaf (approximately 1/4 inch deep) with a sharp knife or a bread lame. This not only adds to the bread’s appearance but also helps control how it expands during baking.
Prepare the glaze
- In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg white and 1 tablespoon of water. This egg wash will give your bread a beautiful golden crust.
Not everyone is ready to make the tasty Cuban bread from scratch. You can save yourself some time and effort if you opt for a proven frozen Cuban bread option. There’s nothing wrong with skipping some steps if you think it best.
Bake the bread
- Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Place the shaped loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Brush the egg wash generously over the loaf.
- Bake the bread in an oven that has been warmed for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, or until it is golden brown and makes a hollow sound when tapped.
Cool and enjoy
- Allow the freshly baked Cuban bread to cool on a wire rack for at least 20-30 minutes before slicing and serving. It’s tempting to dig in right away, but this step ensures a better texture and flavor.
Tips for perfect Cuban bread
- Quality Ingredients: Use high-quality bread flour for the best results. It has a higher protein content, which contributes to the bread’s structure. If you decide to go for frozen Cuban bread, make sure to get it from a trusted supplier.
- Temperature Matters: Ensure your water is at the right temperature (around 110°F or 43°C) to activate the yeast effectively. Too hot or too cold water can affect the yeast’s performance.
- Kneading: Don’t rush the kneading process. Proper kneading helps develop the bread’s gluten structure, leading to that desirable soft interior.
- Rising Time: Let the dough rise until it doubles in size. This step is crucial for achieving the desired texture.
- Egg Wash: Brush the egg wash generously over the loaf for that signature glossy crust.
Time to enjoy some tasty bread!
Baking your own Cuban bread is a rewarding experience that allows you to savor the flavors of Cuba from the comfort of your home. With a crispy crust, a soft interior, and a subtle yet enticing flavor, this bread is sure to become a family favorite. So, gather your ingredients, follow the steps, and embark on a culinary journey that brings a taste of Cuba to your kitchen. Your senses will thank you, and your friends and family will be impressed by your newfound baking skills. ¡Buen provecho!