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Feelin' groove-y: Coconut oil bread

Monday, May 7, 2012

The top of the coconut trees are just out of reach from my apartment balcony. If I tied a couple of broomsticks together and attached a coat hanger at the end, I could probably hook one of the fronds.
But when I went downstairs, they were too high for me to reach anyway. I had to go outside the compound to find some smaller trees. The leaves were a little dry, but they would have to do.
Why did I need coconut fronds? Well, I was reading up on Cuban bread and apparently, to get the groove in the middle, a leaflet from the palmetto palm is used. The hard spine in the middle of the leaflet makes the indentation while the dough proofs and later bakes. Bay leaf is also apparently used. It would probably be fresh, but I only had dried leaves. I should have used kaffir lime leaves instead.
Groove with it
From what I've read, Cuban breads come in two varieties: pan de agua is made with just water, while pan de manteca contains lard. The bread is used for all types of sandwiches, most famously for the medianoche.
There are many recipes online for lard bread. This site says a medianoche sandwich is made in a challah-like egg bread. Looking for an authentic recipe, I stopped by at 3 Guys From Miami which has a recipe for pan medianoche but it makes a whole lot of bread and I don't have the freezer space to store it all.
The other thing was the lard. I thought of rendering down some bacon at first and using the fat in the bread, but then decided against it. Keeping with the coconut theme, I thought why not use virgin coconut oil. I imagine it isn't the same as using lard but the resulting bread was soft, eggy and fluffy, and perfect for sandwiches.
During the kneading, the aroma from the oil was absolutely gorgeous, and I was looking forward to the taste. Too bad it didn't stick around after the bread was baked. But it did leave me with rather soft hands!
Fill the rolls, toast and press in a pan on the stove
Grooved Coconut Oil Sandwich Bread
Makes 2 loaves or 6 rolls

350g bread flour
1 tsp salt
190g tepid water
1 tbsp sugar
4g active dry yeast
1 tbsp malt syrup
2 egg yolks
1½ tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 egg white, beaten, for glaze
Coconut leaflets or bay leaves

Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Combine water and sugar in a jug. Stir in yeast, cover and leave to bloom, 10 minutes.
Combine malt syrup and egg yolks, and stir into the yeast mixture. Add this to the flour and bring together into a shaggy dough. It will seem quite dry at this stage.
Add the coconut oil and mix the dough until it forms a rough ball. Transfer the dough to the work surface and  knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form into a ball and leave on the work surface. Cover with the mixing bowl. Leave for 10 minutes.
Deflate the dough with the tips of your fingers and knead briefly. Form into a ball and leave covered under the mixing bowl for 10 minutes. Repeat this brief kneading two more times at 10-minute intervals. Form into a ball and place in the mixing bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave until doubled in size.
Deflate the dough and divide into 2 loaves or 6 rolls. Place on a baking tray dusted with semolina or lined with parchment. Brush the tops with egg white.
Cut coconut leaflets into short lengths, wet them and press into the centre of the loaves or rolls. Press down hard so that there is a deep groove. The impression will become shallower as the dough puffs up. Alternatively, use bay leaves, placing three leaves diagonally. Leave to rise, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C. Place a heavy pan in the bottom of the oven while it is heating. 
Boil some water just before baking time. Pour boiling water into the heavy pan and place dough in the oven. Bake until tops are golden and bread sounds hollow when tapped, 25-30 minutes. Remove leaves and cool on a wire rack.

A few favourite sandwiches
Grilled cheese and chutney
Grilled vegetables
Pressed sandwich with shrimp and surimi
Broccoli burger


  1. I have lots of fresh bay leaves given to me by a friend who just got back from UK:D If you want I can give you some.

    1. Thanks Jeannie, that's so kind of you!

  2. Yes, looks irresistible from top to bottom.


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