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This post was originally published on February 7, 2018.
One of the first times I heard of Cuban bread was at our local homeschool co-op. One of the moms suggested that we use Cuban bread to make the garlic bread for the spaghetti lunch. I had never heard of Cuban bread before, but it looked delicious!
At your first glance, this bread looks like ordinary white bread. However, there’s two main characteristics about this bread that make it a lot different from the standard American white bread. The key ingredient to Cuban bread is the lard, which makes the bread really soft. 😋
Whether you use this Cuban bread for garlic toast, homemade croutons, or a classic Cuban sandwich, you’ll be glad you made this yummy bread. It tastes amazing fresh from the oven and when it’s spread with butter! The loaf also slices beautifully, which makes it ideal for sandwiches.
Where did Cuban bread originate?
Cuban bread actually originated in Florida, either Miami or Tampa. Francisco Ferlita opened the first commercial Cuban bread bakery in Tampa in 1896. Each loaf was sold for 3-5 cents and was often delivered daily to homes in the Tampa area. Many people had a special nail at the front door where the delivery man would drive the bread onto the nail.
The bread has been very popular ever since, especially because it is used in the traditional Cuban sandwich. In fact, La Segunda Bakery in Ybor City (a suburb of Tampa) makes 18,000 loaves of Cuban bread every day! Watch a tour of the bakery to learn more about the fascinating process of making Cuban bread.
How long does Cuban bread last?
- This bread is so tasty that it might only last one day in your house!
- Only keep homemade Cuban bread at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Store it sealed tightly in a zip-top bag to retain its moisture.
- Do not refrigerate the bread, as it will make it go stale quickly.
Can you freeze Cuban bread?
- Yes, you can freeze Cuban bread.
- Slice it and seal inside of a zip-top freezer bag.
- Freeze until needed, then defrost in the toaster or at room temperature.
Is Cuban bread vegan?
- The traditional Cuban bread is made with lard, which means that it isn’t vegan.
- If you’re making a vegan Cuban bread, just substitute the vegetable shortening for the lard.
What makes Cuban bread different?
Short answer: a palmetto frond! But don’t worry–you don’t have to move to Florida to make this bread. Just use a metal skewer instead of the palmetto to do the scoring. You might be thinking, why use a palmetto frond to score the bread?
Cuban bread is really popular in south Florida, where there are abundant palmetto plants. These plants also grow in coastal Georgia, where I live. Homeowners in my county regard these hardy plants as annoying underbrush instead of intriguing tropical flora, so there’s no qualms about cutting off a few fronds or stems as they quickly grow back. 😊
In the traditional “scoring” technique, strips of palm frond are pushed into the top of the bread. As the bread rises in the oven, the palm frond causes the bread to split apart, creating the distinctive line down the loaf. You can also use the hard stems of the palmetto if you’d like.
How many calories does Cuban bread have?
One slice of this homemade Cuban bread is about 90 calories. For more nutrition facts, go to the end of the recipe below.
What is similar to Cuban bread?
- Soft French or Italian loaves from the grocery store bakery are the closest substitute to real Cuban bread.
- Don’t use a crusty French baguette; it’s too crunchy.
How to Make Cuban Bread
Gather the ingredients for the Cuban bread: bread flour, yeast, salt, sugar, lard, and water.
Melt the lard in a small saucepan or in the microwave.
Sift the bread flour into a bowl.
Mix together the water, yeast, and sugar in a measuring cup.
Pour the water mixture into a bowl and stir in the melted lard and half of the flour.
Keep mixing with your hand, gradually adding enough flour to make a sticky dough.
Knead the dough on a floured surface for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is smooth, no longer sticky, and passes the windowpane test. See the recipe card below for an explanation of this technique.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let it prove until at least doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Punch down the dough, pat into a rectangle, then roll it up tightly from one of the long edges. Pinch the seam to seal, then gently roll it out to make the loaf about 20 inches long. Place on a cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal, semolina, or grits.
Cover the loaf with a clean garbage bag and let it rise until about doubled in size. The dough should spring back quickly when gently prodded with a fingertip.
Just before baking, press a palmetto stem or leaf into the top of the dough. This will create the distinctive appearance of traditional Cuban bread.
Bake at 400 F for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. The loaf should have an internal temperature of 190 F. Let it cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
Pro Tips for Making Cuban Bread
- Measure the ingredients on a kitchen scale. This ensures an accurate measurement. If you must use cups to measure the flour, spoon it into the cup and level it with a knife.
- Make sure the salt and yeast don’t touch each other. The salt will kill the yeast if it touches it directly.
- Use warm water in the dough to encourage the bread to rise. The ideal temperature for liquids in bread recipes is 115 F.
- Don’t skimp on the kneading. Be sure to knead the bread until it’s smooth, no longer sticky, and passes the windowpane test. This should take 10-15 minutes.
- Place the dough in a cold oven with a pan of boiling water on the shelf beneath. The humid steam creates a warm, cozy environment for the yeast to work.
- Push the palmetto leaf into the loaf before baking. This creates the unique appearance of authentic Cuban bread.
- Let the bread cool completely before serving. Freshly baked bread is full of steam and needs a while to cool off and finish cooking inside. Breaking into the loaf while it’s still hot will make the bread gummy and doughy.
Our Go-To Kitchen Tools for Cuban Bread
- Digital Kitchen Scale: measure your ingredients accurately with this scale.
- Wilton Cookie Sheets: these sturdy cookie sheets don’t warp easily.
- ThermoPro Digital Thermometer: it’s accurate, easy to use, and compact to store.
- Wire Cooling Racks: cooling your bread on these racks ensures the crust stays crispy.
- Metal Skewers: don’t have a palmetto frond? Use these skewers instead.
Looking for other great breads? Try these ones.
- English Bloomer Bread: this simple bread is easy to make and quite delicious.
- Super Easy Italian Bread: this is the perfect loaf for beginning bread bakers to make.
- White Mountain Bread: this delicious white loaf is similar to the popular bread from Publix.
The pleasure of a 5-star review for this Cuban bread would be greatly appreciated.Print
Homemade Cuban bread, or pan Cubano, is perfect for Cuban sandwiches or just eating plain with butter. This recipe shows you how to make one loaf of soft white bread, so you don’t have to move to Miami or Cuba!
- 4 cups bread flour, sifted (470g)
- 1/4 cup lard, melted (55g)
- 1 1/4 cups room-temperature water (295 ml)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons fast-action yeast (7g)
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar (8g)
- 2 teaspoons fine salt (10g)
- Cornmeal or semolina, for dusting
Making the Dough (25 minutes + 1 hour proving)
- Sift the bread flour into a bowl and set aside. Melt the lard in the microwave or in a small saucepan, being careful not to let it get over 115 F.
- Stir together the water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl with your hand until blended.
- Add the melted lard and half of the flour to the mixture. Mix until a wet paste has formed, then add in the salt and enough flour to make a somewhat sticky dough.
- Knead the dough on a floured surface for 10-15 minutes until the dough is smooth, no longer sticky, and passes the windowpane test. Test the dough by breaking off a lump of dough and stretching it between the thumb and forefinger of each hand to create a windowpane. The dough should stretch until it’s translucent in places without breaking. If it does, this means the dough has been sufficiently kneaded. If not, continue kneading for a minute longer and test again.
- Shape the dough into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough prove until at least doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Shaping the Loaf (10 minutes + 45 minutes proving)
- Lightly dust a 11×17 inch rimmed cookie sheet with semolina or cornmeal.
- Dump the dough onto a floured surface and punch it down all over to knock out air pockets.
- Shape it into a rectangle and roll it up tightly from one of the long sides.
- Pinch the seam and ends to seal, then roll it gently with the palms of your hands to extend its length to about 20 inches. Place it diagonally along the prepared tray.
- Place the tray inside of a clean, large garbage bag. Inflate the bag and tuck the ends under the tray to seal. Let the dough prove for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the loaf has doubled in size and the dough springs back quickly when lightly prodded with a fingertip.
- While the dough is proving, prepare your scoring device. Place a strip of palmetto frond or a long stem from the palmetto plant in a shallow dish. Pour some boiling water over top and let it sit in the water for about 5 minutes to clean them. Rinse and dry the frond strips or stem and set aside.
- About 10 minutes before the dough is finished proving, preheat the oven to 400 F. Put an old metal casserole dish on the lowest shelf of the oven to preheat.
Baking the Loaf (20 minutes + 15 minutes cooling)
- Once the loaf is fully proved, push the palmetto strips or stem along the top of the loaf. Put the leaves or stem in on an angle to create a better score as the loaf bakes.
- Slide the tray into the oven, pour a cup or two of water into the hot metal dish, and quickly shut the oven door.
- Bake the loaf for about 20-25 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and has an internal temperature of at least 190 F.
- Let the loaf cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack before slicing and serving.
- It is encouraged to weigh your ingredients when baking for much more accurate measurements.
- Make sure the palmetto frond or stem you use have not come in contact with any pesticides or chemicals.
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Cuban
Keywords: Cuban bread, Cuban bread recipe