Pan Cubano, or Cuban Bread, (and I actually mean bread from Cuba or from Tampa — Ybor City, in particular) is so unique, that to have it once is to remember it forever.
It’s also so iconic that there’s a food holiday named for it (August 23 is National Cuban Sandwich Day) and Tampa, Florida has designated the Cuban Sandwich its city’s “signature sandwich” and they have a festival in this jolly good fellow’s honor. Yeah, it’s that good.
When I set out to make a gluten free Cuban Bread recipe, I knew I had to match the spongy soft texture of this aromatic yeast bread, with the same crunchy crust that so distinctively makes every sandwich that much better.
As I prepared to trek to Tampa, Florida to teach gluten free cooking classes on the demonstration stage at the Gluten Free Food Allergy Fest several years ago, I knew that if I could devise a gluten free Pan Cubano, the local crowd would be thrilled!
I used to live in the Tampa Bay area (back in my gluten-filled days), so I know of which I speak. Cuban Bread is awesome. Creating a gluten free Cuban Bread recipe would be epic.
So here, I give you my gluten free version of a local favorite. A modern spin on an age-old recipe that no one, outside of a few generations-old bakeries, seems to know how to replicate.
I’ve created my recipe to be gluten free, of course, and it’s happily vegan as well, but I’ve taken care to make it something that any home baker can make, no matter where they live.
Like traditional Pan Cubano, it’s best the day it’s fresh-baked, but surprisingly good the next day, too.
The key is in the right gluten free flour and the gluten free starter — don’t skimp! Traditionalists will use lard in place of the olive oil my recipe contemplates — use what you prefer.
Palmetto leaves or not, I urge you to try this Gluten Free Cuban Bread on National Cuban Sandwich Day or anytime you crave a really great sandwich.
It will change your sandwich-making life. Fun tip: if you prefer your Pan Cubano to be flatter and you don’t happen to have a press — do what the bricklayer immigrants in Tampa originally did: just lay a hot brick on top of the bread for a couple minutes!
I’ll leave you with this quick video clip from a Cuban woman I met after demonstrating this recipe in Tampa at the Gluten Free Food Allergy Fest. She sums it up pretty well, I think!
- 1 1/2 tsp. yeast
- 2/3 cup (90 gr) gfJules® Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
- 2/3 cup+ 4 Tbs. warm water
- 2 cups (270 gr) gfJules® Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
- 1/4 cup certified GF millet flour (40 gr) OR almond meal (32 gr); or powdered coconut milk (23 gr); or powdered dairy-free milk (44 gr)
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 Tbs. cane sugar
- 1/4 cup (63 gr) starter
- 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup + 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) Quick Rise yeast (e.g. Red Star®)
Whisk together starter ingredients, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. Starter will remain usable for at least 3-5 days when refrigerated.
Whisk together the dry ingredients, then add measured starter (save the rest for another recipe later), oil, apple cider vinegar and 3/4 cup warm water, reserving 1/4 cup water to add last to help keep the dry ingredients in the bowl when the mixer is turned on. Once incorporated, add yeast and beat another 2 minutes on medium high. The mixture should be like a stiff and sticky batter, not a thick dough.
Either prepare a gallon-sized zip-top bag by cutting 1 inch out of the corner, or prepare a pastry mat or clean counter by dusting liberally with more Jules Flour. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper.
Transfer the dough to the prepared bag or the pastry mat. If using a bag, squeeze dough to the corner of the bag and pipe out 4 equal-sized rolls, approximately 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter, onto the prepared baking sheet. If using the pastry mat method, roll the dough in the Jules Flour until coated, then divide into four equal parts, rolling in more Jules Flour. Individually roll each segment out to a 2 inch log and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
In lieu of palmetto leaves, cut segments of baking twine and soak in water. Press one segment of twine gently into the top of each roll before rising and baking.
Brush each roll with olive oil (or egg wash, if not making vegan) to help the bread brown, cover loosely and let rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes. Spritz with water before baking.
Preheat oven to 400 F (static) or 375 F (convection).
Place a pan of water on the bottom rack of your oven. Once risen, uncover bread, remove twine and place on a higher rack of the oven. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with crumbs attached, rather than with wet dough. The bread should also sound hollow when knocked.
If the bread is not browning, brush with more oil or melted butter before the end of the bake time and/or set oven to broil briefly to add color to the loaves.
Remove to cool on wire racks before slicing.
Yield: 4 sandwich rolls.
Amount Per Serving Calories 392Total Fat 34gSaturated Fat 13gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 19gCholesterol 5mgSodium 624mgCarbohydrates 16gFiber 4gSugar 3gProtein 11g
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