Kitchen · My Quarantine Kitchen · Uncategorized

My Pandesal Project: A List of Mistakes

One of the things I miss from the Philippines, is pandesal.

Quarantreats ube pandesal

I miss eating pandesal with corned beef, pandesal with fried egg, pandesal with tuna spread, pandesal with cheese pimiento, pandesal with picadillo, pandesal with coco jam. These traditional Filipino bread spread only goes well with pandesal because sliced bread gets too soggy.

The nearest Filipino bakery, Valerio’s Bakeshop, is about 10 miles from our home so I hardly go. I buy pandesal from Valerio, just twice a year.

When the safe at home order was announced in California, we stocked up on the carbohydrates basics- rice, potato, pasta, Asian noodles, bread and flour.

Che’s Asado Pandesal

With time and a lot of flour – I thought this is the perfect time to try baking pandesal. On my Facebook feed, I saw a lot of my Filipino friends here in the US posting their freshly baked pandesal. I was salivating!

Jojie’s pandesal has the professionally baked look, uniform sizes and extra soft

So, I googled Pandesal recipe and I found hundreds of videos and articles. I also texted my nurse friends, Jojie and Che, (who had taken up baking pandesal as their therapy for this stressful covid period) for their recipes.

My friend Mae’s pandesal with egg wash top to make it crispy

First Attempt Day 1: Lots of mistakes

I am not an experienced baker, but I am not a novice in the kitchen, either. So, I thought- how difficult can this be? I quickly skimmed the recipe, assembled my ingredients and happily started baking.

I didn’t know that this humble pandesal will literally humble me. My first batch was total disaster – inedible.

MY FIRST ATTEMPT: Total DISASTER!. Hard as stones even while still hot
Inedible!

My first mistake: I just skimmed the recipe as I always do. This is my FIRST time to bake bread! I should have read the entire recipe first or I would have avoided the second mistake.

Second mistake: I started a little too late in the day, at 5.30 pm. Halfway through my baking, I realized I needed two rising – 1.5 hours and 2 hours. Great! My bread will be ready by midnight and not dinner as I earlier promised my husband.

Third mistake: I didn’t know anything about YEAST! I used Che’s recipe but when I couldn’t wait for the time to rise, I shifted to Jojie’s recipe, which only required a total of 1.5 hours (first rising 1 hour and second rising half hour). BIG BIG MISTAKE! Jojie was using instant yeast and Che was using dry yeast.

Instant yeast does not need to bloom and can be added directly

Active Yeast needs to bloom which is an extra step

Second Attempt Day 2: Getting there

So, still not realizing that I was using the wrong yeast, I used Jojie’s recipe and her rising time. Literally, with my heart pounding, I started baking – and I prayed (believe it or not I really did).

“Lord, please give me my daily bread and not stones”

Additional mistake: I cut up my dough into irregular sizes. When I baked, some were already done and some turned too hard. it was edible – but after 5 minutes, it was too hard.

MY SECOND ATTEMPT: Still a FAILURE! The dough did rise. But still turned hard after 20 minutes.
Uneven shapes, sizes and texture. Edible only while hot

My only consolation- my whole house, including our bathrooms, smelled of freshly baked bread! If there is bread heaven, this is what it smells like.

I still got stones…

I almost gave up!

I told myself, I should just stick to what I’m good at – cooking – and give up my dreams of freshly baked bread. I consoled myself that I am happy with my favorite Artesano bread.

But my husband won’t allow me. He wants freshly baked bread! And what would I do with all my yeast and flour???

I also found out that all of my friends were using dough mixer and I was doing manual kneading. That furthered discouraged me. I didn’t want to buy a bulky dough mixer (I have a small kitchen) that I may end up not using.

So I kept reading and asking friends. I soon realized that my biggest mistake was the yeast which affected the timing.

Third Attempt and Lessons Learned: After 2 weeks

  • I read the recipe carefully and assembled my pre-measured ingredients
  • I used instant yeast (shorter rising time and no need for the yeast to bloom)
  • I started at 3pm early enough to take my time and not rush
  • I can do manual kneading. You have done enough kneading when you press the dough and it doesn’t spring back
  • I bought a weighing scale for uniform size
  • I made sure I checked at exactly 15 minutes to avoid over baking

Finally… Hot Pandesal!

THIRD ATTEMPT: Success! Very soft while fresh from the oven. Still soft on Day 2
We had it for dinner on Day 2!

Pandesal Recipe using instant yeast

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk –(lukewarm, NOT hot or cold)
  • 1 egg (room temperature – if too cold, it will affect the temperature of the milk)
  • 2 Tablespoons melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon instant dry yeast
  • bread crumbs

Procedure

  • Mix together dry ingredients in a big bowl: flour, sugar, salt. 
  • After mixing first three ingredients: add yeast
  • Mix liquids in a separate bowl: milk, beaten egg and melted butter.
  • Combine dry and liquid ingredients and mix until well blended.
  • Knead on flat surface until it smooth, about 5-10 minutes.
  • Form the dough into a ball and place in a bowl. Lightly coat with oil. Cover with kitchen towel and leave in a warm space. Wait for dough to double in size.
  • Tip: put the dough bowl in the oven with a bowl of hot water. (DON’T turn on the oven!) This is just to give a warm environment to your dough and make it rise faster.
  • Press down the dough. Roll into a log and cut into desired size. I like 45 gms.
  • Shape each piece into a ball and roll in breadcrumbs.
  • Arrange the pieces on a baking pan. Leave an inch space in between for the dough to rise.
  • Cover and let dough rise for 30 minutes until double in size.
  • While waiting, preheat oven 370° F /185°C.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until the sides are a bit browned. Don’t leave too long!
  • Remove from oven and enjoy!

I’m sure there is more to learn. Will update this post with Pandesal Journey!

Thank you for spending time with me!

Salamat,

Leah

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