Puerto Rican Pan Sobao

Pan Sobao Bread from Puerto Rico

The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

  • Total: 75 mins
  • Prep: 45 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Rise: 90 mins
  • Yield: 2 loaves (24 servings)

Puerto Rico has a popular bread called pan sobao ("kneaded bread") or pan de manteca ("lard bread") and it is absolutely delicious. The baguette-shaped bread is light, airy, and just a little sweeter than most—it's a bit like French bread, but with a softer crust.

Pan de manteca is an appropriate name for this bread because lard is the ingredient that makes it special. If you prefer, shortening is a good vegan substitute and the difference is subtle enough to go unnoticed.

This recipe is easy, even for new bread bakers. You can mix and knead it in a stand mixer or do it all by hand. Either way, you'll love how simple it is to shape the loaves. Pan sobao is excellent as a side to meals and perfect for both fresh and grilled sandwiches. Don't be surprised that you'll want to make this bread again and again.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups/333 mL water (warm)
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup/51 grams lard (or shortening)
  • 5 cups/600 grams bread flour (divided)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Divide up the bread flour: 3 cups (360 g) of flour in one bowl and the remaining 2 cups (240 g) in a separate one (you may not need all of it).

    Ingredients for Pan Sobao Puerto Rican Bread
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  2. Pour the warm water into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the yeast and sugar until completely dissolved. Let stand for 15 minutes so the yeast can bloom.

    Blooming Yeast for Pan Sobao Bread Dough
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  3. Mix in the lard (or shortening). Use the paddle attachment if using a stand mixer, otherwise use a spoon or rubber spatula.

    Adding Lard to Pan Sobao Bread Dough
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  4. Mix in the 3 cups of bread flour and salt. Add more bread flour in small amounts from the reserved bowl until the dough begins to follow the mixing spoon or paddle around the bowl.

    Adding Flour to Pan Sobao Bread Dough
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  5. Switch to the mixer's dough attachment or, if kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Knead for 10 minutes, adding a little more bread flour as needed. The dough should be elastic and smooth.

    Kneading Pan Sobao Bread Dough
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  6. Place the ball of dough in a greased bowl and flip it over so both sides are greased. Cover with a lint-free towel and let rise (also known as proofing) for 40 minutes, or until double in size.

    Proofing Pan Sobao Bread
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  7. Punching Down Pan Sobao Bread Dough
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  8. Turn out onto a very lightly floured board and fold four times. The only flour you should add from now on is just to prevent sticking.

    Folding Pan Sobao Bread Dough
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  9. Form the dough into a ball, cover with a towel and let rest for 15 minutes.

    Ball of Pan Sobao Bread Dough
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  10. Divide the ball into two equal pieces. Form a ball with each, cover, and let them rest for 5 minutes.

    Two Balls of Pan Sobao Bread Dough
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  11. Using your palms, roll the dough back and forth to shape each ball into a 12-inch long baguette.

    Shaping Loaves of Pan Sobao Bread
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  12. Place the two loaves on a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes, until double in size.

    Proofing Loaves of Pan Sobao Bread
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  13. While proofing, preheat the oven to 400 F. Create a steamer by filling a deep pan with about 2 inches of water and place it on the top rack of the oven.

    Once risen, place the bread in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

    Baking Pan Sobao Bread in the Oven
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  14. Let the bread cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a baking rack to cool completely (about 2 hours before slicing).

    Fresh Baked Pan Sobao Bread
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  15. Serve and enjoy!

Tips

  • The bread will keep at room temperature for about three days. Store the extra loaf in the freezer until needed if you won't eat it right away.
  • All-purpose flour can be used rather than bread flour, though the bread will be a little flatter.
  • Always use the lowest speed when mixing bread dough with a stand mixer to avoid burning out the motor.
  • While not necessary, the pan of water turns your oven into a steamer so the crust is neither too soft nor too hard. If you have a convection oven, try that setting without the steam tray.
  • For consistent bread, weigh out the ingredients and use a stand mixer. You can produce great bread with hand kneading, but it's important that you don't over-knead it. This particular bread is fluffier when machine kneaded.
  • Keep in mind that the amount of flour you need and the proofing times will change with your environment. Open windows, air conditioners, heaters, and humidity can affect yeast development throughout the year, so make adjustments as needed.