A few days ago, I came across a reference to Puerto Rican pan de agua and was intrigued enough to fall down an internet rabbit hole until I learned everything there is to know about this Latin “water bread.” The bread is similar to a French baguette, but ideally has a thin, crisp crust.
In fact, the ingredients of pan de agua are identical to the ingredients of my no-knead white bread, which has a hard crust. The difference is in the baking method.
To achieve the soft, crispy pan de agua, which is ideal for sandwiches or veggie-burger buns, you simply have to follow this baking method:
Pan de Agua
- Pull off a grapefruit-sized boule of no-knead white dough, roll into a baguette, and place on a sheet of parchment paper.
- Let the dough achieve room temperature(ish).
- Brush the dough lightly with water and make a slice lengthwise along the top of the baguette.
- Slide the baguette onto a baking stone in a cold oven.
- Pour 1 and 1/4 cups of boiling water into a pan beneath the baguette.
- Immediately close the oven and wait ten minutes.
- After ten minutes, turn the oven to 400 degrees and set the timer for 30 minutes (or until the bread achieves an internal temperature of 207.
Real pan de agua should achieve an internal temperature of about 195 degrees, but that temperature results in a bread too gummy for our liking, so I kept the loaf in the oven until the internal temperature was 207.
The real stuff is also brushed with a mixture of water and egg whites, but, hey, we’re being vegan here, so I used only water.
The recipe also suggests placing the dough on corn meal, but I don’t think I’ll do that in future because the cornmeal becomes embedded in the baked loaf. Oh, and DO NOT place the loaves directly onto the cold baking stone or they will bake to the stone (believe me: I speak from experience). You need to use parchment paper.
If you want a more authentic pan de agua, here’s a short video that shows the entire method from scratch. As you’ll see from the video, the real stuff relies on a less shaggy dough than my no-knead stuff, but the ingredients are the same. I did get a kick out of the video guy suggesting a twenty-minute wait to let the yeast bloom (yeesh!).
I was not holding out much hope for this baking method, but the loaves are brilliant with a soft, crispy crust that’s PERFECT for a….
Vegan Banh Mi Samitch
This version of the banh mi is based on one from Slate’s You’re-Doing-it-Wrong feature.
First, cook a block of tofu and a sliced onion using this method from The Minimalist in The New York Times!
- one large carrot
…and mix it with…
- 2 TBS rice vinegar
- 1 TBS sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
Slice into very thin slices….
- 1/2 an English cucumber
- 1/4 cup vegan mayo
- 1/4 cup siraraccha
- 1 jalepeno pepper, seeded
- a handful of cilantro
Now slice open that pan de agua, dig out a little of the bready guts (to make more room for filling) and throw everything into the baguette (in nice layers, of course!).
It is SO freaking good…and, strangely, like eating a stir fry enclosed in a soft baguette.
If you’re wondering about the potatoes, I was trying a method I read about on the CFDG site that involves rubbing cubed potatoes with tahini. I had high hopes for this method since everyone on the CFDG Facebook group was raving about them, buuuuut they were just okay.
In fact, they look much better than they tasted.
So it’s thumbs up for the pan de agua and the banh mi sandwich; thumbs down for the tahini-roasted potatoes.
And the song of the day is Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times.” He’s not someone I’d normally listen to, but he sang this on SNL last night, and I was struck by the 1970s Bowie-ish vibe…
And here’s something to exemplify my point….