There are times when we miss home. For migrants like us, the question is where is home. Really.
Now that we've settled in Sydney for almost 5 years, we call this home now. But our heritage is still Filipino, and so at some point, I truly miss home. That is where most of our families are, friends who have seen me through the good, the bad and the ugly. And one of the small number of Filipino food that I miss is the good ol' pandesal, alongside the Lucban longganisa.
Pandesal is the Filipino version of dinner rolls. Why its called dinner rolls but not limited to be eaten at dinner time eludes me. Pandesal can be bought from a local bakeshop, usually from every corner of the a suburb, and is eaten plain, with butter, peanut butter, nutella (if you prefer), coco jam, eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, morning tea, whenever, wherever. It is a versatile bread, but uniquely Filipino. I do believe it has its unique qualities and I seriously not seen anything like it replicated elsewhere. If it's called a roll, a damper, scones it is not the real thing. The pandesal can be similiar in some ways to these types of breads, but not quite. Only a real hot steamy old style bakery can make them as good.
We have tried making pandesal at home twice now. The first attempt looked glorious, but were hard as rock after a few minutes out of the oven. I thought frequent visitors in our backyard will have a feast. But they didn't. The pandesal blended with the cold harsh Australian night chills. Looking back, I'm now thinking the possums may have had that feast instead.
This is a second attempt to make pandesal at home. Before starting, my thoughts went to the previous attempt using a hand-held electric mixer. The poor little thing survived the ordeal. And now with a sturdy stand mixer (not my dream Kitchenaid yet, but we'll get there) and the presence of a dough hook, it's all too promising. This attempt was made with a production line of 6yo amateurs and a 69yo grand master kneader (Lolo was present on hand to do some serious kneading). It's always fun when baking entails some kind of kneading and waiting and the dough rising, and waiting some more.
This pandesal version was better than the first. It was soft and had texture, but a bit bland and lacked a bit colour. Despite following the exact measurements of salt and sugar. A third attempt might be planned for the future.
Meantime, what's in your bread? Me? You all know what it is. I can live on peanut butter and bread alone. I think it's time to upgrade our repertoire of spreads. Anyone one for duck liver pate?
This recipe was taken online as recommended by my best online buddy - Google. Taken from allrecipes.com here.
2 cups warm water (110 degrees F / 45 degrees C)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
(I actually used instant dry yeast, hence skipped the first step)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cups all purpose flour (we used bread flour for this recipe)
1. Put the warm water in small mixing bowl and add the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar, stir to dissolve. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining 15 teaspoons of sugar and the oil and mix until smooth. Add the salt, 1 cup flour and the yeast mixture; stir well. Add the remaining 5 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, supple and elastic, about 10 minutes. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in it and turn to coat the dough with oil. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume; about 1 hour.
4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 equal pieces. Form each piece into a cylinder and roll out until the log is 1/2 inch in diameter. Using a sharp knife, cut each log into 1/2 inch pieces. Place the pieces, flat side down, onto two light greased baking sheets. Gently press each toll down to flatten.
5. Preheat oven toe 375 degrees F (190 degrees C)
6. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
7. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) until golden.
There are Filipino shops close by that sell pandesal, but there's nothing close to the smell of bread baking in the oven. So.... maybe we'll try again in a few months time.