Homemade Pan Sobao (Pan de Manteca)
Updated: Jul 16
Pan Sobao has a long history in Puerto Rico, it was traditionally made with lard, hence the name "pan de manteca." It is chewy, soft and a bit sweet. We went through a lot of different recipes and experimented a lot to create the perfect rendition of this Puerto Rican favorite.
No need to run out to the bakery or pack it in your bag on your way back from the island, now you can make it at home.
½ cup water, lukewarm
4 ½ tsp yeast (2 packets)
1 tbs sugar
4 - 4 ½ cups bread flour (at least 12 grams of protein per cup)
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
1 cup milk, cold
3 tbs vegetable shortening (or lard)
Start by activating your yeast. Because yeast is dehydrated when you buy it, the first thing you want to do is rehydrate it with lukewarm and give it a little sugar to jump start its growth. So add your water, yeast, and a tablespoon of sugar to your mixing bowl and give it a quick stir using the paddle attachment of your mixer. Let it rest for about 5 minutes, after which you should notice a brown foam gathering at the surface of the water. This means the yeast is active so you are all good to go.
Now add about 3 and a half cups of flour to the yeast mixture; followed by your salt, the rest of your sugar, and one egg. Once added, turn your mixer on briefly to combine. Then go ahead and add your cold milk. You want this milk to be as cold as possible, so leave it in your fridge until the last minute. The cold temperature helps the gluten formation.
Once your mixture has formed a rough dough, add your shortening and continue mixing until all of the shortening is incorporated into your dough. You may need to use a spatula to scrape down the edges of the bowl from time to time, to ensure the shortening is fully incorporated.
After your shortening is mixed in, you should have a very wet dough. Now we need to add some more flour to get it to the point where we can need it. As you mix the dough begin adding flour by the tablespoon. Keep adding flour until the dough no longer sticks to the edges of your bowl. Again, you may need to use a spatula to scrape down the edges of the bowl from time to time.
Once your dough no longer sticks to the edges, use a butter knife to remove the dough from the paddle attachment and install your dough hook. Now, with the dough hook in place, knead your dough for five to six minutes.
As you are kneading your dough you might see that it begins to stick to the bottom of the bowl. If this happens, just add a little more flour and use your spatula to scrape off the part that’s sticking. Continue kneading for the remainder of the time.
Once your dough is kneaded, pull it out of your mixing bowl and shape it into a ball. To do this, use the palms of your hands to squeeze together the base of the dough, as you rotate it slightly. The goal hear is to form a smooth surface that will capture the carbon dioxide being produced by the yeast, in order to help the bread rise quickly.
Once your ball is formed, spray your bowl with cooking spray and put your dough ball back in it. Then spray the top of your dough with cooking spray and cover your bowl with plastic wrap.
Now let the dough rise for two hours.
After the two hours, we want to punch down the dough. The goal of this is redistribute the yeast in the dough, so it will be in contact with new sugars so it can continue growing. To do this, we are going to basically turn the dough inside out. Reach down the back of your bowl, and pull the base of the dough all the way to the top, then repeat on all sides. Next, dump your dough out onto a clean surface and divide it into two pieces. Now shape your two pieces of dough into balls, that we’ll roll out to make our loaves. Repeat the process from earlier to shape your balls. Use your palms to squeeze together the base of the dough, as your rotate it slightly.
Once your balls are formed, spray them with cooking spray and cover them with plastic wrap. Let them rest for 15 minutes. The reason we give them this rest, is that it makes them much more pliable and easier to shape in the next phrase.
After the 15 minutes, take of the plastic wrap and begin spreading out your balls. To do this, use a rolling pin to roll the balls into a rectangle, approximately 18-by-18 inches.
Once your rectangle is formed, use your fingers to roll up the dough into a cylinder, pressing down firmly as you go. Once it’s rolled up, pinch the dough together at the seam. This way, your loaf will stay together as it’s baking.
So again, to shape your loaf, use your rolling pin to roll out your dough ball into a rectangle approximately 18-by-18 inches. Ideally, you want the smoothest side to be down; because it will end up being the outside of your loaf. Once your dough is in a rectangle, use your fingers to roll it up, pressing down firmly as you go so the layers stick together. Once rolled up, pinch together the loose ends firmly.
Next line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Before transferring your loaves, go over the seams again and pinch them together a second time. Then roll your loaves a couple of times, in order to get them to the length of your baking sheet. As you are rolling your loaves, you can also give them additional shape by squeezing down at the ends, in order to taper them more.
Once your loaves are on your baking sheet, spray them with cooking spray again and cover them with plastic wrap. Now let them rise for another hour and a half or so. The specific time depends on what temperature your kitchen is. Just for reference, my kitchen was 80 degrees and I let the bread rise an hour and twenty minutes.
Once your bread is almost done rising, turn your oven on to 350 F. I’m using the convection setting on my oven, because it helps the bread cook a little faster and gives the crust more color. But if you don’t have a convection setting, no worries. You’ll just need to cook them a little bit longer.
Once your oven is hot, place your bread in the middle rack and then throw a half cup of water into the bottom of the stove. This water will create steam that will help your bread rise and give your more texture in the crust.
Bake your bread until it's golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it. I baked mine for 25 minutes on the convection setting; but when I have baked the same recipe without the convection setting it took more like 32 minutes.
Once done, take it out of the oven and let it rest a couple minutes. Once cool enough to move, transfer the bread to a cooling rack to avoid it getting soggy.
Now cut yourself a big slice and enjoy!
Check out our instructional video, showing how to make this recipe step-by-step HERE.