Pan de leche is a Filipino sweet bread that has many regional variations. As far as I know, any yeasted bread baked with milk and sugar can be labeled pan de leche, but I have a very specific idea of what it is supposed to be like. It will be dense and feel heavy for its size. The crumb will be dry but fluffy. The glazed soft crust will have the slightest hint of chewiness. Throwing it against a wall or forehead will cause a resounding thump.
With those attributes in mind, I tried several divergent recipes before coming up with my own. I found that making pan de leche requires the most basic bread baking techniques — pre-ferments, wild yeast starters, and soakers are unnecessary and the dough should be firm and easy to handle. It should take only a few hours of fermentation, some pantry staples, a sheet pan, and a hot oven.
The simplicity of my pan de leche recipe means that it is average bread at best. To put it bluntly, most of the other breads I’ve baked, where slow fermentation spread over a few days fully develops the flavor of the resulting loaf, will taste better.
But this is exactly how I remember it, a close approximation of a childhood favorite. After several attempts, I think I finally nailed it.
Pan de Leche
Filipino Sweet Milk Bread Rolls
makes 9 pan de leche rolls
Final Dough Formula:
Ingredients Volume Ounces Grams all-purpose flour 3 cups 13.5 383 whole milk 1/2 cup 4 113 butter, melted 1/2 cup 4 113 granulated sugar 1/4 cup 1.75 50 kosher salt 2 tsp instant yeast 1 tbsp large eggs 2
For the Egg Wash:
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 half-sheet pan lined with parchment paper
Final Dough Instructions:
Mix Mix all of the ingredients until evenly incorporated. Knead 10 to 12 minutes Bulk Ferment 2 hours at room temperature in a lightly oiled bowl Divide 9 pieces, about 85 grams / 3 ounces each Rest 15 minutes Shape oval dinner rolls Final Proof 60 to 90 minutes at room temperature while uncovered, until almost doubled in size. Let a skin form on the rolls.
Proofed Filipino pan de leche rolls.
Preheat Oven 375ºF/190ºC Glaze glaze with the egg wash Score 2 slashes (optional)
Glazed and scored Filipino pan de leche rolls.
Bake Bake at 375ºF/190ºC for about 18 to 22 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking if necessary Cool At least 15 minutes