We are almost at the end of our journey – the second-last stop of our Culinary Tour is Cuba. As “The University of Wikipedia” 😉 puts it: “Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish and Caribbean cuisines. Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. The typical meal could consist of plantains, black beans and rice, ropa vieja (shredded beef), Cuban bread, pork with onions, and tropical fruits. Black beans and rice, referred to as Platillo Moros y Cristianos, and plantains are staples of the Cuban diet. Many of the meat dishes are cooked slowly with light sauces. Garlic, cumin, oregano and bay leaves are the dominant spices.”
Here are some pictures from the hubby’s trip to Cuba 15 years ago. Pretty nice, huh?
While looking for something interesting to make I stumbled upon the “Cubano”, a Cuban sandwich made with ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on Cuban bread. Cuban bread is a simple white bread comparable to French bread, so that didn’t sound really exciting to me. But THEN I found the “Medianoche”. This is a type of Cuban sandwich. Medianoche means midnight, and as to what I’ve read it is so named because this sandwich is really popular as a staple served in Havana’s night clubs around midnight. The difference to the “Cubano” is that it is made on slices of an egg bread which is comparable to Challah. Now, THAT sounded interesting. Off to Mr. Google I went to find a recipe for this type of bread.
Y voila! I found a recipe for Pan Suave (which literally means “soft bread”). As I’m baking A LOT of bread, this recipe wasn’t really hard to follow. The dough just didn’t want to double as fast as was stated in the recipe (just in case you are wondering: no, my kitchen is NOT cold – we have an open kitchen that is attached to the living and dining room, so it’s as warm in the kitchen as in the living room). Eventually, it did double, so I could shape the rolls and let them rise again. Then they went into the oven. The smell from the oven about 10 minutes later was fantastic.
Then I took all the ingredients for the medianoche and followed this recipe to assemble it. Easy-peasy: Slice the rolls open face, spread mustard on both halves, add ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese and a few pickle slices. Cover with the other half of the roll. Brush some butter on the outside of the bread.
As I don’t have a sandwich press, I placed the sandwich in a hot skillet and pressed it down with a heavy pan until the cheese was melted. When finished, I sliced the sandwiches diagonally across the middle so that I had two triangle shaped wedges. The hubby and I enjoyed the medianoche, even though it wasn’t even close to midnight when we had it ;-). The kids REALLY loved the plain rolls for breakfast the next morning.
Recipe for Pan Suave (adapted from Taste of Cuba):
- 4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 tsp salt, plus a little bit more for egg glaze
- 4-5 cups bread or all-purpose flour (I used about 6 cups)
- 2 tbslp sesame seeds
- 1 tblsp melted butter
- Dissolve yeast and 1 tblsp sugar in 3 tblsp warm water in a mixing bowl. When mixture foams, stirn in remaining water, sugar, the oil and all but 1 tblsp of the beaten eggs.
- Beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt to make egg glaze and store in refrigerator until needed.
- Stir the 2 tsp salt and the flour into the liquid ingredients.
- Knead the dough until smooth, about 6-8 minutes, adding flour as necessary to obtain a soft dough that is pliable but not sticky.
- Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise in warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk- 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Punch down.
- Form the rolls, dividing into 12 equal pieces. Roll each on the work surface with the palm of your hand to form a tube 5 inches long with tapered ends. Transfer the rolls to a lightly greased baking sheet leaving 3 inches between each.
- Dust with spray oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Brush the rolls with the reserved egg glaze and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Bake until golden brown and hollow sounding when lightly tapped, 20 to 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter. Serve warm or cool to room temperature on a wire rack.