Pan de Agua: Puerto Rican Water Bread

Pan de Agua: Puerto Rican Water Bread

The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

Prep: 35 mins
Cook: 35 mins
Proof: 2 hrs
Total: 3 hrs 10 mins
Servings: 16 servings
Yield: 2 loaves
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
155 Calories
1g Fat
32g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 155
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 407mg 18%
Total Carbohydrate 32g 11%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 8mg 1%
Iron 2mg 10%
Potassium 56mg 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.)

Pan de agua, or water bread, is a common bread found in the Caribbean. Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Dominicans are in love with this crusty bread. In the Dominican Republic, pan de agua comes in small round rolls, while in Cuba and Puerto Rico it takes the form of French-inspired loaves. For Puerto Ricans, this bread is the staple of their breakfasts and snacks. There's nothing like biting into a fresh slice of crusty, warm pan de agua while you sip a strong café con leche first thing in the morning. Ideal for sandwiches and delicious with fresh butter, this is an easy bread to make and you won't regret the time investment. The result is a bread with a hard and crispy crust and a fluffy and airy center that you'll fall in love with.

Similar to French or Italian bread, pan de agua is made from the same basic ingredients, but the baking process is different. Have you heard of placing a loaf of bread in a cold oven? Well, this might be the first time you do it, but it won't be the last. The proofed dough is placed in a cold oven and is set above a pan of boiling water. The bread continues to rise as the oven heats up, causing the crust to become deliciously thin and crisp. 

Irresistible right out of the oven, pan de agua is great in Cuban sandwiches, bread pudding, or at breakfast with any egg dish or slices of ham and cheese. Freeze some baked loaves to have delicious bread any time you want. Plan ahead, as you need a little over three hours from start to finish.

"This was a soft, chewy bread, and very easy to make with a few basic ingredients. There's no added fat except for the oil or butter to grease the bowl or proofing container. The bread has nice flavor and it will make excellent sandwiches." —Diana Rattray

Puerto Rican Water Bread Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

For the Dough:

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

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 2 cups (473 milliliters) warm water

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 5 cups (709 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal, or flour

For the Egg Wash:

  • 2 large egg whites

  • 1 tablespoon water

For Baking:

  • 1 cup water, boiling

Steps to Make It

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

Make the Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Pan de agua: Puerto Rican water bread ingredients

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  2. In a large bowl, quickly mix together the yeast, sugar, and warm water. Cover the mixture and let it stand for about 20 minutes until the yeast starts foaming on top.

    Mix together the yeast, sugar, and warm water in a bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  3. In a separate bowl, mix the salt and flour. 

    Mix together the salt and flour

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  4. Add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture, 1 cup at a time. The dough will begin to form as you add the flour. 

    Flour mixture and yeast mixture combined in a bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  5. Once the dough is malleable and you have added all of the flour, transfer it to a floured surface and knead it for 10 to 15 minutes. It should become elastic and no longer sticky. If you're using a standing mixer with a dough hook, 8 to 12 minutes should be enough to get a good consistency.

    Knead the dough

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  6. Grease a large bowl with the oil and place the ball of kneaded dough inside. Turn the dough so it's oily all over. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let it rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

    Dough in a bowl, covered with a towel

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

Shape the Dough

  1. Flour a work area and divide the proofed dough into 2 equal portions. Knead them into separate long loaves, about 12 to 14 inches long.

    Two dough logs on a floured surface

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  2. Sprinkle some cornmeal or flour on a baking sheet and place the loaves on top. Use a sharp knife to make 3 to 4 slashes along the top of each.

    Bread dough on a baking sheet with cornmeal

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  3. Mix together the egg whites and the water to make the egg wash. Brush the egg mixture on top of the loaves. 

    Loaves brushed with egg wash

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

Bake the Loaves

  1. Put the loaves on the center rack of a cold oven. Place a shallow baking pan on the rack below the loaves. Fill the shallow pan with the boiling water.

    Boiling water poured into a shallow baking pan

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  2. Wait 10 minutes. Turn the oven to 400 F. Bake the loaves for 35 minutes. Their internal temperature should reach 200 F, and they should be golden and a bit crusty.

    Pan de agua: Puerto Rican water bread

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  3. Enjoy.

When Is the Dough Properly Proofed?

Depending on the container or bowl, it can be difficult to visually tell when the dough has "doubled in size." To check the dough, poke two lightly floured fingers about an inch into the dough. The indentations should remain. If the dough springs back and fills the indentations in within a minute or two, it isn't ready.

How to Store and Freeze

Pan de agua is made without fat or preservatives so it goes stale quickly, so it's best enjoyed the day it's baked. However:

  • If you want to save the second loaf until the next day, cover it as securely as possible with plastic wrap. Warm it up in the microwave for a few seconds before serving it.
  • For longer storage, wrap the loaves tightly in plastic wrap and place them in zip-top freezer bags. Freeze the bread for up to two months. To use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, slice, and toast.