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Author Notes: I have no idea whether there are any sandwich rolls in Cuba even remotely similar to these. I developed this for making "Cuban sandwiches" of the kind one can buy in Tampa. Many that I've had are a bit ordinary, with bread that could have come off a Wonder or Rainbo truck. These have a slightly crisp, slightly chewy crust and a soft, not-quite-artisanal crumb. The method of folding while shaping the dough comes straight from Mrs. Child, but modified for rolls instead of baguettes. I'll be posting a recipe for "The Cuban" (the sandwich itself) separately. Enjoy!! —AntoniaJames
Makes 6 generous sized rolls
- 1 ¼ cups water
- 2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- ¼ cup fine quality leaf lard (or non-hydrogenated shortening, if good lard is not available)
- 3 ½ cups all purpose flour + more, if necessary, for kneading
- 3/8 cup (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) semolina flour
- 2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
- 1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon olive oil for your bowl during the first rise
- More semolina and Kosher salt, for baking the rolls
- Heat one cup of the water until it’s very hot to the touch. Put it in a large bowl, with the lard, the salt and sugar. Stir it a bit; then set it aside.
- Proof the yeast in ¼ cup of warm water with a tiny pinch of sugar.
- Add one cup of all-purpose flour, the semolina flour and the wheat germ to the bowl with the water and lard. Beat well, all in the same direction.
- Add the proofed yeast and water and two cups of all-purpose flour and stir to combine, as best you can. Turn the contents of the bowl onto a floured work surface and knead until the dough comes together. Gradually add the remaining ½ cup of flour, kneading all the while. (You may not need all the flour. Stop adding it when the dough is still just a bit tacky, and then add only a teaspoon at most more at a time, if absolutely necessary.)
- Rinse and dry your work bowl, then drizzle the olive oil in it and put the kneaded dough, shaped in a neat ball, into the bowl. Cover it with a damp tea towel and let it rise for at least an hour.
- Punch the dough down and remove it to a well floured work surface (one where you can allow the rolls to rise). Let the dough rest for about five minutes, then cut it into 6 equal pieces. I do this by shaping it first into a square, then using a bench scraper to cut the square down the middle vertically, then dividing each half into three pieces, horizontally.
- Take each rectangle and fold it in thirds, as if you were folding a business letter, bringing the top edge of the longer side and 1/3 of the dough toward you, and then folding the bottom edge up and over that. Press each one down gently with the palm of your hands, doing your best to maintain the rectangular shape.
- Sprinkle them lightly with flour, then cover them with a tea towel and let them rise for 40 - 45 minutes.
- Press down the rectangles of dough until they are somewhat flat. Use the same folding motion with the dough that you used before, then flatten the dough very gently, and fold again. True up the short ends with the sides of your hands to make the rolls as rectangular as you can. If they aren’t perfect, don’t worry about it.
- Combine about 2 teaspoons of semolina with about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Sprinkle it on a parchment lined baking sheet; put each roll on it, seam-side up; then turn each seam-side down. Arrange the rolls so there are at least 2 inches between them. Cover with a tea towel and allow them to rise for another thirty minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Bake the rolls for 20 -25 minutes, or until they make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before using.
- N.B. This dough also makes a great loaf. Just shape it and let it rise the second time in the pan in which you are going to bake it. (Or, if you like to use clay pots, as I do, see my "Everyday Potato Bread" recipe for further instructions.) In my really well insulated, reliable convection oven, I bake the loaf at 350 degrees (equivalent of 375 for non-convection ovens, I'm told) for 25 minutes, then tent it lightly with foil and bake for another 25 minutes. It only needs two rises. The second should be about 30 minutes long. You don't want it to double the second time, or the crumb won't be as good for slicing and using for sandwiches. I posted a photo of the loaf I made today, after my sons lit into it at lunchtime. ;o)