One of the first times I heard of Cuban bread was at our local homeschool co-op. One of the moms suggested that we use Cuban bread to make the garlic bread for the spaghetti lunch. I had never heard of Cuban bread before, but it looked delicious!
At your first glance, this bread looks like ordinary white bread. However, there’s two main characteristics about this bread that make it a lot different from the standard American white bread. The key ingredient to Cuban bread is the lard, which makes the bread really soft. 😋
The other characteristic is a little more fascinating, it has to do with the scoring method. This bread is really popular in south Florida, where there are abundant palmetto plants. These plants also grow in coastal Georgia, where I live. Homeowners in my county regard these hardy plants as annoying underbrush instead of intriguing tropical flora, so there’s no qualms about cutting off a few fronds or stems. In the traditional “scoring” technique, strips of palm frond are pushed into the top of the bread just before baking. As the bread rises, the palm frond causes the bread to split apart, creating the distinctive line down the loaf. You can also use the hard stems of the palmetto if you’d like. Don’t worry–you don’t have to move to Florida to make this bread!! Just use a metal skewer instead of the palmetto to do the scoring.
Whether you use this Cuban bread for garlic toast, homemade croutons, or a classic Cuban sandwich, you’ll be glad you made this yummy bread. It tastes amazing fresh from the oven and when it’s spread with butter! The loaf also slices beautifully, which makes it ideal for sandwiches.Print
Homemade Cuban Bread (Pan Cubano)
Homemade Cuban bread, or pan Cubano, is perfect for Cuban sandwiches or just eating plain with butter. This recipe shows you how to make one loaf of soft white bread, so you don’t have to move to Miami or Cuba!
- Prep Time: 35 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours 55 minutes
- Yield: 1 large loaf
- about 4 cups bread flour, sifted (470g)
- 1/4 cup lard, melted (55g)
- 1 1/4 cups room-temperature water (295 ml)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons fast-action yeast (7g)
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar (8g)
- 2 teaspoons fine salt (10g)
- Cornmeal or semolina, for dusting
Making the Dough (25 minutes + 1 hour proving)
- Sift the bread flour into a broad bowl. Set aside. Melt the lard in the microwave or in a small saucepan, being careful not to let it get over 115 F.
- Stir together the water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until blended.
- Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and add a cup of the flour and the melted lard. Mix until a wet paste has formed, then add in the salt and more flour. Mix on medium-low speed and add just enough flour to make the dough clean the sides of the bowl.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on medium-low speed until the dough passes the windowpane test. Test the dough by breaking off a lump of dough and stretching it between the thumb and forefinger of each hand to create a windowpane. The dough should stretch until it’s translucent in places without breaking. If it does, this means the dough has been sufficiently kneaded. If not, continue kneading for a minute longer and test again.
- Shape the dough into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough prove until at least doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Shaping the Loaf (10 minutes + 45 minutes proving)
- Lightly dust a 11×17 inch rimmed cookie sheet with semolina or cornmeal.
- Dump the dough onto a floured surface and punch it down all over to knock out air pockets.
- Shape it into a rectangle and roll it up tightly from one of the long sides.
- Pinch the seam and ends to seal, then roll it gently with the palms of your hands to extend its length to about 20 inches. Taper each end of the loaf slightly, then place it diagonally along the prepared tray.
- Place the tray inside of a clean, large garbage bag. Inflate the bag and tuck the ends under the tray to seal. Let the dough prove for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the loaf has at least doubled in size and the dough springs back quickly when lightly prodded with a fingertip.
- While the dough is proving, prepare your scoring device. Place a strip of palmetto frond or a long stem from the palmetto plant in a shallow dish. Pour some boiling water over top and let it sit in the water for about 5 minutes to sanitize them. Rinse and dry the frond strips or stem and set aside.
- About 10 minutes before the dough is finished proving, preheat the oven to 400 F. Put an old metal casserole dish on the lowest shelf of the oven to preheat.
Baking the Loaf (20 minutes + 15 minutes cooling)
- Once the loaf is fully proved, push the palmetto strips or stem along the top of the loaf. Put the leaves or stem in on an angle to create a better score as the loaf bakes.
- Slide the tray into the oven, pour a cup or two of water into the hot metal dish, and quickly shut the oven door.
- Bake the loaf for about 20-25 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and has an internal temperature of at least 190 F.
- Let the loaf cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack before slicing and serving.
- It is encouraged to weigh your ingredients when baking for much more accurate measurements. Please note that the imperial measurements for the flour in this recipe is approximate.
- Make sure the palmetto frond or stem you use have not come in contact with any pesticides or chemicals.