Puerto Rican Pan Sobao

Pan Sobao Bread from Puerto Rico

The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

Prep: 45 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Rise: 90 mins
Total: 2 hrs 45 mins
Servings: 24 servings
Yields: 2 loaves
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
130 Calories
3g Fat
23g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 24
Amount per serving
Calories 130
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 3%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 2mg 1%
Sodium 80mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 23g 8%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 5mg 0%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 34mg 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—literaly "kneaded bread"—is absolutely delicious. Also known as pan de manteca, or lard bread, neither translation does pan sobao any justice because most loaves of bread are kneaded and many are made with lard. But this bread isn't like anything you've had before. Slightly sweet, but not too much, slightly unctuous, but not a lot, slightly crunchy, but not baguette-like, this bread is just perfect for sweet or savory preparations. A source of pride for Puerto Ricans, the bread has many variations, but most are pretty similar, and they all yield a pillow-soft, delicious loaf of bread.

Sometimes confused with Pan de agua, a popular bread in both Puerto Rico and Cuba and famously used for Cuban sandwiches, pan sobao is slightly sweet and chewier thanks to the lard, whereas pan de agua has a crispier crust than pan sobao.

Lard gives this bread an extra special touch, but using vegetable shortening is a good substitution if you're looking to make this bread suitable for all diets, vegetarian and vegan alike. Although many recipes for pan sobao have endless amounts of steps and preparation required, our two-loaf bread recipe is fairly simple, even for new bakers. Mix and knead the bread in a stand mixer if you have one or do it all by hand. Eat it warm with butter, use it for sandwiches, French toast, bread puddings, or slice it and toast it to accompany a cheese board. We recommend using bread flour, but all-purpose flour will do, though the bread will be a little flatter.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (333 ml) warm water

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

  • 3 tablespoons white granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup (51 grams) lard, or vegetable shortening

  • 5 cups (600 grams) bread flour, divided

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this bread recipe is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and baking.

Make the Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Pan Sobao Puerto Rican Bread
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  2. In the bowl for a stand mixer or another large mixing bowl, pour the warm water and stir in the yeast and sugar until completely dissolved. Let stand for 15 minutes to allow the yeast to bloom.

    Blooming Yeast for Pan Sobao Bread Dough
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  3. Mix in the lard, or shortening, using the stand mixer's paddle attachment. If mixing by hand, use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.

    Adding Lard to Pan Sobao Bread Dough
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  4. Mix in 3 cups of bread flour and salt. Add more bread flour in small amounts until the dough begins to follow the paddle or mixing spoon around the bowl.

    Adding Flour to Pan Sobao Bread Dough
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  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

Knead and Prove the Dough

  1. Place the ball of dough in a greased bowl and flip it over so both sides are greased. Cover with a lint-free clean kitchen towel and let rise for 40 minutes, or until double in size.

    Proofing Pan Sobao Bread
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  2. Punch down the dough.

    Punching Down Pan Sobao Bread Dough
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  3. Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured board and fold four times. The only flour you should add from now on is to prevent sticking.

    Folding Pan Sobao Bread Dough
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  4. Form the dough into a ball, cover with a clean towel and let rest for 15 minutes.

    Ball of Pan Sobao Bread Dough
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  5. 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
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  6. 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
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  7. Place the two loaves on a parchment paper-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes, until double in size.

    Proofing Loaves of Pan Sobao Bread
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Bake the Loaves

  1. 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 underneath.

    Baking Pan Sobao Bread in the Oven
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios
  2. Let the bread cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a baking rack to cool completely, before slicing. Pan sobao will keep at room temperature for about three days. Freeze the extra loaf until needed if you won't eat it right away. Serve and enjoy.

    Fresh Baked Pan Sobao Bread
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

How Warm Is Warm Water for Bread Making?

When making bread, warm water is crucial for activating the yeast. The water should be lukewarm but not too hot; generally, water above 120 F will kill the yeast. Mixing the yeast with water between 110 F and 115 F is best, though water that's at least 90 F yields excellent results. Heat the water gently in a saucepan or in the microwave and check the temperature with a thermometer. When mixed with water, the yeast will bloom, bubbling and foaming during the resting period. If it does not, your yeast might be dead—perhaps it was too old or the water used to bloom it was too hot.

For Best Results

  • 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 or the gluten will develop too much, creating a tough and tight bread.
  • 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!
  • 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.