Sunday, April 1, 2007

This is NOT an April Foolish

Given the April Foolish date, I was going to give you a long line of blather about being kidnapped by aliens and hitchhiking around the galaxy with some of Douglas Adams' friends. After I thunk on it awhile, I decided you probably wouldn't believe I had an in with that bunch. Which I don't, but why should that stop me?

Anyhoo, a much better option presented itself. Have any of you ever heard of pan de agua? That means "water bread" and is a staple in South American and Central American cultures. The curious thing is, I first learned of this gem in a murder mystery. No, I don't remember which one. Then I read about it in another murder mystery and, ohmygosh, even an article written by a murder mystery author. In every instance, pan de agua was spoken of in terms of reverence and maybe even good old-fashioned lust. How could I not start Googling to see what all the fuss was about?

Okay, you will find, should you choose to Google the subject yourself, there are variations on pan de agua but I think the most very basic recipe is this: Dissolve 3 tablespoons yeast in 1 cup of warm water. [Editorial correction: Please note, 1 tablespoon or 1 pack of dry yeast works wonderfully well. I no longer use the 3 T. amount. Your call. Explanation in post for April 21.] Add to a mixture of 3 cups flour and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Mix well and knead until smooth and satiny. Let rise. Punch down and shape into desired form. Let rise again and bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden-brown.

So simple, right? I could not, of course, leave well enough alone so I added 2 tablespoons butter and 2 heaping tablespoons powdered sugar. (If I'd used granulated sugar, I would have only added 1 tablespoon.) Also, feeling absolutely no need to knead, I tossed it all in my bread machine and put it on the dough cycle.

There are any number of ways to treat the dough before you bake it. You can do it in a regular bread pan. You can divide it into 8 portions and shape into rolls. You can stretch it out like a loaf of french bread. With either the rolls or the french bread style, slash the top with a sharp knife before the final rise. Then, when it comes out of the oven, brush the crust with olive oil to keep it nice and tender.

Don't take my word for it. This bread is so flippin' quick and easy, you've just got to try it for yourself. By hand, by stand mixer, by bread machine -- hey, kidnap a teenager off the street and force them to do the kneading by threatening to play all your Barry Manilow tapes. You will be amazed at how wonderful this bread tastes, how light and smooth its texture. No wonder our southern neighbors have it for breakfast every morning. Oh my -- the sandwiches you could make with this.

I can't say why I only heard about pan de agua in murder mysteries but it must have something to do with the fact that it's bread to die for. Right? You don't believe me? Try it. Really. Just try it. You'll thank me.


John Bailey said...

I'm gonna have to drag out the bread machine (just for the proving and kneading) and try this one, Dee. I'll leave the bread crusty, though--I have teeth, and I know how to use them!

Wendy, NC said...

Dee, this bread sounds wonderful and I just have to give it a go. I 'fess to doing a cut and paste, local save on the pertinent paragraphs. Now I want some of this bread for breakfast!

bb said...

It just isn't safe to come here on an empty stomach. :-) Sounds easy enough for me. Best wait until air conditioning is turned on rather than heat up the house that is already too warm by noon.

Did you happen to see my Mt. St. Helens ornament?

Mage said...

There's still that kneeding to be done and not done here, darn it. I used to like to braid my loaves.

Dee said...

You've got it right, John. I forgot to say to omit the after-baking brush if one prefers the crusty crust. I've just always enjoyed the softy.

I'm tickled all y'all are giving it a try because it's truly astonishing, in terms of results for small effort and few ingredients. Bonnie, if you let the machine do the baking, as well, you won't have to worry about heat buildup in the kitchen.

Dang it, Mage, we've just GOT to get you a bread machine to take care of that kneading! Then you could make oodles of wonderful braided loaves.

Jo said...

Ohmigosh, Dee, saw your recipe and had to bake a loaf today. So easy ingredients! I used the bread machine and it came out perfect and the bread is light and tasty. Melts in the mouth. Thanks.

mz. em said...

Boy, it sounds yummy to me and something I could do. But alas, I'm beginning my diet and bread is not on it.