Cuban Bread

Last weekend I made a stew/beef dish that was heavily inspired by the beef with cocoa and red wine that I made a few years ago. I’m very glad I did on such a cold weekend. The weather likewise demanded that I make bread.

It’s been a little while since I’d baked bread, but I didn’t plan ahead particularly well. My sourdough starter wasn’t fed and I didn’t have the time to make anything too involved. I wanted crusty bread, and I originally thought I wanted a whole wheat bread, but as I browsed recipes and thought about the stew I was making, I decided I didn’t want something so… wheaty.

Cuban bread to the rescue! This bread looked like it had a nice, crunchy crust, and it was going to be fast. Making this bread was simple. You simply mix and knead the dough, let it rise 15-30 minutes, shape, and bake with no oven preheating. Although this bread baked for 50 minutes (a little on the long side), the use of hot water in the dough ensured a shorter rise.

Cuban Bread

I halved this recipe because I didn’t want Alex and I to have to struggle to eat a bunch of bread. (A hardship, I know.)

Cuban Bread

2 1/2 – 3 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup hot water

I put 1 cup bread flour, 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour, and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour in my stand mixer with the yeast, salt, and sugar. I mixed it together briefly, and added 1 cup hot water. [I heated my water in a tea kettle, but added some room temperature water to it before adding it to the flour and yeast so it wouldn’t be too hot. I don’t trust the hot water from my old apartment pipes.] I mixed it on low-medium speed with the dough hook for 3 minutes.

Next I added 3/8 cups of all-purpose flour to get the dough to firm up to the point that it’s not sticky. I kneaded it for about 4 minutes with the stand mixer, until the dough was elastic and I could windowpane it a little. I put the dough in a greased bowl and covered it with plastic wrap, and put it on my stove to rise.

Perhaps my water wasn’t hot enough, or my kitchen wasn’t hot enough even with my range on; I had to let the dough rise longer than 15 minutes to get it to double, but no more than 30 minutes. Once it was fully risen, I gently deflated it and shaped it into a boule or ball, stretching the top surface and tucking the dough into the bottom. I placed the dough on a Silpat-lined baking sheet and slashed the top of the dough. I did an amazing job shaping the dough, because when I slashed an X into the top of the bread, my knife really cut for the first time; in fact, it cut a little too well through some layers of dough because my loaf split open as it baked.

I placed the dough on the middle rack in a cold oven; I placed a metal pan on the bottom rack and filled it with boiling water. I turned the oven to 400F and baked the bread for exactly 50 minutes. Next, you should really let your bread cool a little before cutting it. I only gave it about 20 minutes, but you should probably let it cool an hour because it’s much easier to cut, and your slices will be more even.

This was a tasty bread. It had a nice, crisp crust that wasn’t too hard. The inside was dense and only a little chewy. The bread was bready and yeasty, in great ways. I can see how well this dense and sturdy bread would stand up to its namesake Cuban sandwich. I was very satisfied with how the loaf turned out.

I made this bread because it sounded incredibly quick and easy to make. It was both, and was delicious as well. I’m glad I made it, and I encourage you to try it as well some time when you’d like fresh bread but haven’t given yourself quite enough time to make a different recipe.

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