Cuban Sandwich Rolls

By • August 9, 2011 • 26 Comments



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
  1. 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.
  2. Proof the yeast in ¼ cup of warm water with a tiny pinch of sugar.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Sprinkle them lightly with flour, then cover them with a tea towel and let them rise for 40 - 45 minutes.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  12. 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.
  13. Enjoy!!
  14. 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)
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about 1 month ago Miles

Hi. Found your recipe while I was searching "porchetta" : ) Can you use a bread machine for this and rapid yeast? Thanks! They look great btw.

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7 months ago KimmyV

Hi! I want to make these tomorrow and I have a question. In step 9 when you mention using the same folding motion, do you mean I should fold it like a business letter a second time? Thanks . They look amazing. Can't wait for sandwiches!

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almost 3 years ago dymnyno

These sound delicious! I don't think they have anything like this in Cuba (they don't have much of anything...period) The Cubano was invented in South Florida

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thanks! I'm sure you're right. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I made the rolls, they are THE BEST. I had one, saved one for the Cuban and froze the rest. I am dieting or I probably would have plowed through all of them. Your instructions are impeccable!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you so much, sdebrango! I aspire to write my recipes the way Julia Child did -- clearly, thoroughly and without much chit-chat or silliness. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I know exactly what you mean, thats why time and time again I use her recipes they are clear, concise and easy to follow. You, may say you aspire, but honestly the way you give instructions are very close to hers. It's a pleasure making your recipes.

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

You are so kind. Thank you. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago lapadia

Hi AJ, I made your rolls!!! I’ve never had Cuban sandwiches/rolls so I couldn’t make a comparison, but that doesn’t matter because what I can say is that your recipe has a wonderful texture, the dough is a pleasure to work with, they are great for sandwiches! Thanks for sharing.

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, lapadia! All the Cubans I've eaten have had rather uninteresting (i.e., bland, soft "Wonder bread" style) rolls. I'd been meaning to develop a good sandwich roll recipe for ages, so the Cuban adobo pork shoulder, plus having two enthusiastic, hungry young taste testers home from college provided the perfect motivation. I'm so glad you liked these. And yes, the dough is wonderful . . . . thanks to all that fat!! ;o)

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

P.S. The dough makes an excellent sandwich loaf, too, as noted in the last step of the instructions. The crumb is creamy and just a bit soft. It makes fantastic toast!! ;o)

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almost 3 years ago lapadia

I LOVE toast!!! Will try that too :)

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almost 3 years ago wssmom

As a former resident of Miami, I've never been a fan of Cuban sandwiches because of the bread, but these ROCK!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thanks so much, wssmom! I've had on my To-Do list forever to develop a good sandwich roll recipe, so this provided the perfect motivation. I, too, haven't been impressed by the bread typically used for the Cubans I've had in Florida. The combo of savory pork roast + ham + cheese + pickles is irresistible, though, making it well worth the effort to put them on a great roll. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Just an update that this makes an outstanding loaf of sandwich bread. I've posted a photo of the loaf I baked today, and added instructions on temperature and time. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

stunning!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thanks so much! I think the secret is the really hot oven. My family is crazy about these. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago lapadia

? them!! I am so making them asap, thanks for the recipe, AJ:)

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

You're welcome! I hope you do. Rolls and baguettes are a bit more work than a standard loaf of "everyday" bread, but they're so worth it, as well you know. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I am so happy you posted this recipe. Making it this weekend.

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almost 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I bought a ton of leaf lard. So glad to put some to use.

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thanks so much! I'm going to try this as a loaf, too, so stay tuned. I really like the flavor and texture that a touch of semolina gives. I always use it in my pizza dough, but I don't often use it in sandwich loaves. Let me know how these work out for you. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I will, I also love semolina I love using it in my breads. Have you ever made jamaican coco bread?

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Haven't made, or even heard of, Jamaican coco bread. Sounds interesting!! ;o)

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almost 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

This look gorgeous! Can't wait to see the sandwich recipe.

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thanks, HLA! ;o)