Cuban Bread in NO time!! (BBB January 2012)

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BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: recipe for Cuban Bread based on a recipe by Bernard Clayton; information about Bread Baking Babes and YeastSpotting; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) January 2012

Call me Thomas. Yes, even though I saw the other BBBabes’ Cuban bread, I still didn’t believe it.

Cuban Bread (BBB) Bread in two hours? Doubt it, Ralph!

But that’s what the recipe claims. And I just proved to myself that it’s true.

So. Next time someone says “But I don’t have TIME to make bread from scratch!!” I can point them to this amazing recipe.

Cuban Bread Diary:

Saturday 7 January 13:01: I took a look at the recipe. Doubting as ever, I had a few questions.

The recipe calls for “hot water” to be added directly to the yeast. From what I understand about yeast, the water temperature should be below 120F because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.

The recipe calls for volume measures. Because I’m a freak (and I love using my digital scale) I worked out the measurements in grams:

  • 625-750 gm flour
  • 14 gm dry yeast
  • 18 gm salt
  • 25 gm sugar
  • 480 gm hot water (not above 120F/49C)
  • sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll measure in cups and spoons or by weight.

However, I can’t help but report that in my frenzy of working out the weights, I also worked out the percentages:

Depending on whether it’s 625gm or 750gm for the 100% flour:

  • 4% OR 3.3% sugar
  • 2.2% OR 1.9% dry yeast
  • 2.9% OR 2.4% salt
  • 76.8% OR 64% water

Still as doubting as ever, I decided I would be making half the recipe. My official reason is that we don’t have room in the freezer for the extra loaf of bread. And then, even though the bread allegedly took no time at all to make, I put making it off for tomorrow.

Because we all know: it’s best to put off for tomorrow what could easily be done today. :-)

Sunday 8 January 08:40: My first and biggest problem was how to find somewhere in this house that was between 26 and 37C. Now? In the dead of winter? With the kitchen generally between 12 and 15C?

The only viable place was the oven. I turned the oven light on and stuck a roasting pan full of hot water onto the bottom shelf. Then, for good measure, I turned the oven on briefly to its lowest temperature and then virtually immediately turned it off again and went to get out the ingredients.

09:17: I’ve mixed and kneaded the dough and it is now in its rising phase of 15 minutes. (Really??? 15 minutes???? Can that be right?)

When I was measuring, I REALLY wanted to use my new digital scale. But I decided that as Clayton had specified volumes and was so loosey-goosey about amounts, I’d stick with dull old measuring cups.

Hot water? Oh my. I simply won’t use hot tap water. Not with our ancient pipes. I put filtered water into a little pot and gently warmed it as I got out the dry ingredients.

Ooops!! The water came to a boil. Too hot, too hot!! (Yeast starts to die when the temperature is higher than 120F/48C) I set it aside to cool. That was no problem in our kitchen that is around 15C….

I couldn’t refrain from making just a few changes to the recipe. I threw in a cup of whole wheat flour. I toyed with adding some oatmeal too but then thought the protests would be too great. But then when it came time to put in the sugar, my hand just went to the brown sugar jar and refused to move over one jar to pull out the white sugar. I listened to the hand. Brown sugar it was.

I justified it with the thought that Cuban sugar must brown. Like Jamaican sugar. Or something. :lalala:

I kneaded for exactly 8 minutes (give or take 30 seconds or so) and then went to put the nice smooth dough into the bowl for its rising period of (am I reading that correctly???) 15 minutes (fifteen?!!). In my frenzy of doubting, I forgot (on purpose) to oil the bowl. (As if I forgot… isn’t this “quick” method already enough of a departure from the norm? :-))

09:31: I just shaped the bread and put it in the oven. I remembered to sprinkle the top with sesame seeds AND to cut a cross in the top.

But I don’t know… that 15 minute “rising” period didn’t really do very much at all…. Is this really going to work?

I’m doubting; I’m doubting….

09:48: I just went and looked to see how things were going. It looks pretty much the same as it did fifteen minutes ago.

I’m still doubting….

09:55: Oh oh… I just reread the recipe.

rising (15 mins)
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put in a warm (26-37°C/80-100°F) place until double in bulk, about 15 minutes.
-Bernard Clayton, Cuban Bread

Aughhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! I can’t believe it. I’ve RUINED the experiment!!!

Now, I’m REALLY doubting!

10:05: Oven pop!! Unbelievable!! There is a vaguely exploded dome of bread in the oven. But it’s not quite done yet. I’ve set the timer for another 5 minutes.

I’m not doubting quite so much after all….

10:11: Still not done. I’ve set the timer for yet another 5 minutes. And I turned the oven down to 375F because it’s starting to get quite dark on the top.

10:18: STILL not done on the bottom!! I turned the oven down to 350F, threw caution to the winds and set the timer for 10 minutes.

10:28: It’s still not done. I turned the bread over (as if it can stand on it’s domed top… turned the oven up to 400F again and and set the timer for another 10 minutes.

I’m doubting again….

10:36: Almost done now. Another five minutes.

I’m a little less doubting again….

10:50: Finally!! It’s cooling on the rack now. We’ll see how things are when we cut into it.

I’m still doubting a little….

11:20: Seeeee??? I TOLD you it would work!!

Really amazing recipe!! I’m floored that one can have bread from scratch in just a couple of hours!


!! :!: :stomp: :!: !!

I just realized why this bread didn’t rise as quickly as expected! I put ONE and a quarter teaspoons of yeast in, not 2.25 teaspoons as instructed!!

Sigh. That’s why I should be measuring by weight. I clearly can’t count to ten when using quarter teaspoons to measure the yeast… But I don’t think I’d have had difficulty reading “seven grams” on the digital scale. :lalala:

Cuban Bread (BBB) I’m afraid that I broke my rule about waiting until the bread was completely cool before cutting it.

It has been eons since I haven’t been able to wait. Which is rather ironic when you think about it. Here, this bread only took about 2 hours from start to finish, when most of our bread requires several hours.

By cutting into it too soon, the smell of yeast was somewhat prominent. But I quite liked it anyway. I think it would be fabulous with baked beans.

But the really really amazing thing is that the resident lover of all things sweet proclaimed that …get ready for this… the bread is too sweet!!!

Amazing! I never expected to hear those words emitting from his lips. Ever.

I, on the other hand, didn’t think it was too sweet. It’s fine. I confess that I do prefer leaner French-style bread but this was lovely. And the outer crust was wonderful.

In fact, the crust on this bread is absolutely brilliant. The crumb is on the tight side for my taste but it made great cinnamon toast one night for dessert and was terrific the next day for lunch, toasted with melted cheese and a bit of chili con carne.

Thank you, Ilva, for once again reminding me that making bread isn’t rocket science; it can be achieved in many ways.

In short, bread just wants to be bread.

Here is this month’s BBB recipe. And here is what I did to it:

Cuban Bread
adapted from the recipe for ‘Cuban Bread’ in Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads

makes 1 round loaf

  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1.5 – 2 c unbleached all-purpose flour ¹
  • 1.25 tsp active dry yeast ²
  • 0.5 Tbsp fine seasalt ³
  • 1 Tbsp demerara sugar 4
  • 1 c hot water (not hotter than 120F/49C) 5
  • brown sesame seeds 6
  1. mixing (Clayton says this takes 15 mins) Put the whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose into a largish mixing bowl. Whisk in the yeast, salt and sugar until they are well mixed. Pour in hot water (it must NOT be hotter than 120F/49C. Using a wooden spoon, beat 100 times.
  2. Gradually stir in the remaining flour (you don’t have to use all of it!) until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. kneading (Clayton says this takes 8 minutes) Scatter a little flour on the board and turn the dough out onto it. Let it sit for a moment as you wash and dry the mixing bowl (cleans the bowl AND washes your hands). Hand knead the dough for 8 minutes, adding tiny amounts of flour as required if the dough is sticky. After 8 minutes, the dough should be smooth and silky and a little bit springy.
  4. proofing (Clayton says this takes 15 minutes) Put the kneaded dough into the clean bowl. Cover it with a plate and put it into a warm spot out of drafts (26-37C/80-100F) for about 15 minutes or until it doubles.
  5. shaping (Clayton says this takes 4 minutes) When dough has doubled, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Fold it gently in thirds like a business letter. Then taking hold (always being gentle!) of the side of one of the ends, make a false braid. Fold the top half over to the middle and make another false braid. The dough will want to roll in on itself. This is a good thing. Once it shapes itself into a quasi ball, put it seam-side down on the board and turn it around and around to smooth out any rough edges.
  6. Pour some sesame seeds onto a plate.
  7. Spray the top of the round with water. Turn it over onto the sesame seeds to completely cover the top. Place the shaped loaf seed-side up on a parchment papered cookie sheet. Cut an X into the top.
  8. baking (Clayton says this takes 45-50 mins) Fill a large roasting pan with hot water and put it on the bottom shelf of the oven. Put the bread onto the second from the top shelf of the cold oven. Close the oven door. NOW turn the oven to 400F (200C). Clayton says “The bread of course, will continue to rise while the oven is heating.” Bake for about 30-50 minutes, or until the loaf are a deep golden brown and hollow sounding on the bottom (the internal temperature should be around 210F or 100C). 7
  9. Allow to cool on a well ventilated rack – the bread is still baking inside. 8


1.) Flour: Clayton simply calls for “bread” or “all-purpose” flour. I don’t know why but I seem incapable of making bread without at least some whole wheat flour. I ended up using about 2.75 cups of flour in all.

2.) yeast: I was a little horrified at the amount of yeast. But I was also determined to follow the recipe. I THOUGHT (I really did!) I was adding 2.25 teaspoons of yeast but was challenged with the counting and only managed to put in FIVE quarter teaspoons. (Can you see me rolling my eyes now?)

3.) Salt: If you are using coarser salt like Kosher salt, it’s probably better to weigh it. 0.5 teaspoons of fine salt weighs about 9 gm.

4.) Sugar: Clayton calls for white sugar. I made an executive decision to use brown sugar. Next time, I’d use much less and possibly none at all.

5.) Hot water: Under no circumstances should you use water from the hot water tap. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? Heat the water in a kettle or microwave and add cold water until it is the correct temperature. (Use a thermometer; your fingers have no idea of temperature!) The temperature should be BELOW 120F(49C) because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.

6.) Sesame seeds: Clayton suggests an alternative of poppy seeds

7.) Baking times: I found that the bread started getting quite dark on top long before it was done on the bottom. After about 30 minutes of baking, I turned the oven down. Then when it still was not getting done, I turned the bread over (good luck balancing it) and put the oven temperature back up to 400F until the bread was finally completely done.

8.) But I want Warm Bread!! : If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after the loaf has cooled completely. To reheat UNsliced bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.

Bread Baking Babes
Bread Baking Babes: Cuban Bread (January 2012) Around Christmas, we had quite a discussion about what kind of bread to make in the new year: savoury or sweet; difficult or easy; in or out of comfort zones….

I pressed for something lean and savoury to counteract the Christmas indulgences. I also begged not to have to do anything too difficult.

There was a gentle reminder that our little group was put together to encourage each other to try recipes out of our comfort zone. Phooey. I hate it when the reminder is right. I steeled myself for the announcement that January’s bread would be insanely difficult to make and waited anxiously to hear the choice.

Ilva (Lucullian Delights) is the host of January 2012’s Bread Baking Babes’ task. She wrote:

I have a bread suggestion here, easypeasy: Bernard Clayton’s Cuban Bread- rise for 15 mins, then put in cold oven and start it up so it rise and bake in the oven at the same time. It’s good too.

Easypeasy?!! I LOVE easypeasy! Say a happy hello to it!!

And making this dough was indeed easypeasy.

But. It was definitely out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t at all keen to make bread starting in a cold oven. With our cranky old oven?

So. Whether this Cuban Bread is in or out of your comfort zone, of course, we’re hoping that you will now bake along with us.

To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: bake Cuban Bread in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turned out AND hear what you think about it) before the 29 January 2012.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Thank you, once again, Ilva!

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ Cuban Bread:


Yeastspotting - every Friday ( image)

Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:


BBB Cuban Bread Cuban BBBread

13 responses to “Cuban Bread in NO time!! (BBB January 2012)

  1. Baking Soda

    This bread was so much fun (and I totally agree with you that “we all know: it’s best to put off for tomorrow what could easily be done today”) I baked it yesterday and regretted that I didn’t try earlier; it was a huge success and the dough was so pleasurable to work with.
    Fun! And Good! Quick too.

  2. ilva

    I think this a great bread to bake when you have little time and still want fresh bread! I too prefer more bready bread but by adding farro flour to mine I sort of satisfied my demands on that front! I’m happy you like it Elizabeth!

  3. Elle

    Love your statement the ‘Bread just wants to be bread’…certainly true in this case. Your loaf is so high and has such a great crust! Let me know how it goes when you make a full batch. For the rising I had to move my rising container near the stove…would never get the 80 degrees temp called for in the recipe with our cool house, but it helped. Yay for such a lovely quick bread!

  4. Görel

    I too was completely astonished that it required so little time from start to finish – it was over nearly before you started! I guess you could cut back on the sugar a bit, but I suspect that some sugar is one of the secrets behind this bread working so well.

  5. katie

    You have a rule not to eat warm bread?!?!? I never wait… sometimes I cut it when it’s so hot I can barely hold on to it…. Butter melts in better that way. Always remember – easy is good.

  6. Patricia

    I have a bad feeling about this bread. It’s in the oven right now and I’m very doubtful that it will go anywhere but into the green bin. I carefully followed all the instructions but the 15 minutes of “rising” did nothing. I shaped the lump of dough into a ball but it’s a lump of VERY dense dough shaped like a ball. It’s about the size of my two fists put together. Is that wrong? I cut an X into the top and into the cold oven it went over top of the hot water in the large roasting pan. The temperature is rising; I’m not convinced about the bread.

    oh, oh, I just looked at the notes properly. Was I supposed to use 2 1/4 tsp yeast? I only used 1 1/4. Of course, I didn’t measure it very accurately, I don’t know where my measuring spoons are so I used a kitchen teaspoon and eyeballed it. I have a bad feeling about this lump of dough, a very bad feeling.

    I’ll let you know.

  7. Patricia

    Yep, I was right. As a loaf of bread, it makes an excellent brick.

    I also didn’t use sugar because Someone in my household thinks that sugar is the root of all evil. We discussed that maybe that was the reason it didn’t rise. I think the next time I need bread in a hurry, I’ll make baking powder biscuits because I KNOW I can make stellar ones. And they only take half an hour from “hmm, maybe I’ll make biscuits” to out of the oven and onto the table.

  8. ejm Post author

    Well, Rats!! Too bad it didn’t work!! All I can say, Patricia, is “I blame myself”. And I’m inclined to agree with you. So is the resident critic. Biscuits are MUCH more satisfying.

    I tried making this bread again the other day and purposely put in half the yeast and just a pinch of sugar. I allowed the shaped dough to double (that took about 30 minutes instead of 15). The resulting bread was EXACTLY the same as the first one.

    It did rise in the oven but it still looked like a toadstool and the crumb was quite tight and dense. I wonder if the sugar does indeed contribute something. The other BBBabes think I should not have fooled around with the amount of yeast.

    Karen, it was fun to make. But I have to admit now that I will probably not be making it again all that soon. In spite of the “only 2 hours” aspect, I actually find it’s easier and less labour-intensive to make regular bread that requires 2 days from mixing to baking.

    Thank you Tanna!

    I liked the roundness too, Natashya. I thought it was cute.

    Ilva, I tried using more wholewheat flour and also adding a few wheat berries to boost the flavour. As it happens, it didn’t make a lot of difference but the bread does make great toast for peanut butter and honey.

    Yes, Lien, the crust was fantastic. I wish I knew how it was achieved. I want crust like that on ALL bread.

    Elle, even on the second time round, I still didn’t make a full recipe. And I just couldn’t bring myself to use the “correct” amount of yeast. So I STILL haven’t made giant loaves like you others did.

    Görel, I now think you’re right about the sugar. I drastically cut the sugar back the second time I made the bread and it still took forever to rise. And now that we’ve heard of Patricia’s disastrous brick as a result of using zero sugar, I’m thinking that this just confirms what you said.

    Yes, Katie, I do have that rule. The bread just doesn’t taste as good when it has just come out of the oven. Not to mention that there is an unfortunate yeasty taste and the bread has a tendency to compact. If you want warm bread, REHEAT it after it has completely cooled. The flavour isn’t compromised and the butter still melts beautifully:

    To reheat bread: turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes. The crust will be rejuvenated and become nicely crusty. The crumb will get wonderfully hot but won’t get all compacted when the bread is cut or torn. Easy easy easy.


  9. Patricia

    I’m going to try it again with some sugar because Someone Else in my household doesn’t buy into the Sugar is the Root of All Evil rule and is always game to try experiments. I’ll let you know tomorrow.

    I hope it works, Patricia! I do recommend using the full amount of yeast (ie: 2.25 tsp) AND allowing the kneaded dough to double before shaping it. It might take longer than 15 minutes. If you do reduce the amount of yeast, let the shaped bread rise for a bit before turning on the oven. I’m guessing the reduced amount of yeast would work if this were a 3 hour bread rather than 2 hour. -Elizabeth

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