Puerto Rican Pan Sobao

Puerto Rican Pan Sobao Bread

The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

Prep: 45 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Rise: 90 mins
Total: 2 hrs 45 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yield: 1 loaf
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
196 Calories
4g Fat
34g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 196
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Cholesterol 3mg 1%
Sodium 120mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 34g 12%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 7mg 1%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 51mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Puerto Rican pan sobao is a pillowy-soft, chewy, and semi-sweet bread with a soft crust, and it's utterly delicious. Pan sobao translates to "kneaded" or "rubbed" bread and is sometimes called pan de manteca ("lard bread"), which is appropriate because lard is the key ingredient. After you taste this sumptuous bread, you'll discover why it's so well-loved and rarely lasts long. It's famously enjoyed from Puerto Rican bakeries, but an easy bread anyone—even beginners—can make at home. It may even become your family's new go-to white bread.

The pan sobao recipe is similar to a basic white bread, though the fat makes a significant difference. Many recipes use butter or oil, while pan sobao is best made with lard, giving the bread its chewier texture. While not traditional, vegetable shortening is a good substitute and makes the bread suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. While there are many pan sobao variations, this recipe is very simple: You only need six ingredients and can knead it by hand or with your stand mixer.

This recipe is written for a single loaf, and it's easy to double when you want to bake two loaves at once. It's also a relatively quick yeast bread to make. You can bake two batches in one morning and have fresh bread for dinner with a few extra loaves to freeze for later.

Pan sobao is incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed on its own with butter or jam, used for garlic cheese bread, or toasted to accompany a cheeseboard. It makes excellent half-sized sandwiches, grilled cheese, and French toast too.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (170 milliliters) warm water (105 F to 115 F)

  • 1 (0.25-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (12 grams) white granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) lard, or vegetable shortening

  • 2 1/2 cups (300 grams) bread flour, divided

  • 3/4 teaspoon (4 grams) kosher salt

  • Cooking spray, for greasing bowl

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Pan Sobao Bread

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

  2. In a medium mixing bowl, add the warm water and stir in the yeast and sugar until completely dissolved. Let it stand for 15 minutes to allow the yeast to bloom.

    Blooming Yeast for Homemade Pan Sobao Bread

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

  3. Mix in the lard, or shortening, then about 1 cup of bread flour and the kosher salt. Add more bread flour—about 1/4 cup at a time—until the dough begins to follow mixing spoon around the bowl.

    Mixing the Dough for Pan Sobao Bread

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Knead for 10 minutes, adding bread flour in small amounts as needed when it becomes sticky. (You may not use all of the flour.) The dough should be elastic and smooth.

    Kneaded Pan Sobao Bread Dough

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

  5. Place the ball of dough in a lightly greased bowl and flip it over so both sides are greased. Cover with a lint-free kitchen towel and let rise for 45 minutes, or until double in size.

    Proofed Pan Sobao Bread Dough

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  6. Punch down the dough. Turn it out onto a very lightly floured board and form it into a ball. Cover and let it rest for 5 minutes.

    Resting Pan Sobao Bread Dough

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

  7. Gently knead the dough for about 1 minute, dusting it lightly with flour as needed to prevent sticking. Form the dough into a ball, cover with a towel and let rest for 15 minutes.

    Kneading Pan Sobao Bread Dough

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

  8. Roll the dough back and forth under your palms to shape the ball into a long baguette, about 12 inches long. As you roll, work from the middle to the ends so the loaf is a relatively even thickness.

    Shaping Pan Sobao Bread

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

  9. Place the loaf on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover with a towel, and let rise for 30 minutes, or until double in size.

    Proofing Loaf of Pan Sobao Bread Dough

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

  10. Preheat the oven to 400 F. When it's done proofing, place the bread on the oven's middle rack and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped underneath.

    Freshly Baked Loaf Homemade Pan Sobao Bread

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

  11. Let the bread rest for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a baking rack to cool completely before slicing.

    Freshly Baked Puerto Rican Pan Sobao Bread

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

Tips

  • For consistent bread, weigh out the ingredients using a metric kitchen scale.
  • You can use all-purpose flour, though the bread may not rise as much because bread flour has more gluten.
  • Use your stand mixer to make the dough if you prefer. Switch to the dough hook once it comes together and knead it on medium speed for about seven minutes.
  • The amount of flour you need and the proofing times will change with your kitchen environment. Open windows, air conditioners, heaters, and humidity can affect yeast development throughout the year, so make adjustments as needed. For the most control, proof your bread in the oven with the light on. Just don't forget it's in there and accidentally turn on the heat!
  • Use the convection bake function on your oven for even baking and a softer crust (pan sobao's crust softens as it cools). In any oven, a steamer will help as well: Fill a metal pan with about two inches of water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven while it preheats.
  • Pan sobao will keep at room temperature for about three days. Freeze any extra bread for up to three months.

How Warm Is Warm Water for Bread Making?

Lukewarm water is crucial for activating the yeast when making bread; 90 F is minimum, but 105 F to 115 F is best. The water should not be hot because the yeast will begin to die in water that's hotter than 120 F. Heat the water gently in a saucepan or in the microwave and check the temperature with a thermometer. When mixed with water, the yeast should bloom, bubbling and foaming during the resting period. If it does not, your yeast might be dead—it may be too old or the water was too hot.

What's the Difference Between Pan Sobao and Pan de Agua?

Pan sobao is sometimes confused with pan de agua ("water bread"), a popular bread in Puerto Rico and Cuba that's famous for Cuban sandwiches. As the name implies, pan de agua recipes use a good amount of water and have a crispier crust. Thanks to the lard, pan sobao is slightly sweet and chewier than pan de agua.