Wednesday, February 3, 2010


It's been more than a week now since I returned from Cuba. There have definitely been some emotional ups and downs and a struggle to hold on to the peace I felt in my beachside isolation. 

I've come away with at least one amazing thing though. I am able now to think of Mom without gut wrenching pain and loneliness or seething anger at her loss. This happened first in Cuba. I would remember things or ask Her questions, or share with Her what I was seeing and feeling. And I was doing it without any sense of panic or trauma. I was a little surprised that it continued when I got home - but so far, so good!

I'm still looking into therapy though!

I have definitely been wanting to cook since returning and I've got a few dishes stored up to post about (including a Top Chef recipe to be posted tonight or tomorrow.)

The first time I visited Cuba a few years ago I had the most amazing sandwiches. The filling was nothing special, just ham and a mild swiss like cheese. But the bread, the bread was amazing! Sweet and dense and soft and chewy. I've never had another sandwich like it! 

Later, I learned about the medianoche, that combination of the typical Cuban bread, cheese and ham (often with pickles) yet somehow I never experienced the likes of it again.

This trip was my third to Cuba and again I was disappointed. I think the problem is that resorts in Cuba try very hard to cater to their North American clientele. Thereby draining themselves of anything typically Cuban.

In any case, I returned home from Cuba determined to taste that yumminess one more time. I'm pretty pleased with these results (I've tried more than one recipe for pan Cubano since my first taste of Cuban bread.)

And so, I give you the Medianoche
Pan Cubano
(adapted from

3/4 tsp active dry yeast 
1/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup bread or all-purpose flour

The starter should be made the day before baking the bread.
Dissolve yeast in water.
Allow to form into a thick paste.
Then add the flour.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours minimum or several days (starter can also be frozen if it's made ahead of time.)

4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast 
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 to 4 tbsp lard or solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 batch starter (see above recipe)
1 tbsp salt
4 to 5 cups bread or all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast and sugar in 3tbsp water in large bowl.
Let sit 5-10 mins. until it becomes foamy.
Stir in lard, remaining water and the 1/2 batch of starter.
Mix well by hand. 
Stir in salt and flour one cup at a time.
Dough should become stiff enough to knead.
Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic adding flour as necessary (5-10 mins).
Dough should not be sticky. 
Transfer dough to oiled bowl.
Cover bowl and let rise in warm spot until doubled (approx. 1 hour)
When dough has doubled punch down and divide into 4 equal pieces.
Roll each piece into foot long tube with rounded ends.
Place on baking sheets 6 inches apart.
Cover with damp dish cloths and let rise again until doubled (approx 1 hour).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and sounding hollow when tapped.

1 loaf pan Cubano
slices cooked ham
slices roast pork
sliced swiss cheese
* pickles (optional)
mustard/mayo (optional)

* I used bread and butter pickles that I canned in the summer but you could certainly use whatever type of pickle you favour.

Layer pan Cubano with cheese, meats, pickles and mustard/mayo.
Press in panini press or, if you don't have one, lay sandwich in saute pan and cover with heavy object to press the sandwich.
Serve hot.


sandy axelrod said...

Sounds absolutely yummy. It would be perfect for Sunday's Superbowl here in MIami!

kirsten said...

I nominated you for the honest scrap award.

You put your thoughts out there for people to read. Kudos

Daydreamer Desserts said...

I can't wait to try your pan cubano recipe, I love medianoches!

Heiko said...

Talking about lard. Here in Italy we don't get what you would call lard. Instead we get a local speciality which would be right up your street, "lardo collonato" It's solid pork fat (so not spreadable), with a spicy crust cured in containers of local Carrara marble. It's absolutely divine!

As for the bread recipe, apart from the lard it sounds pretty much the way we make bread every day anyway.

Trix said...

That bread looks beauteous. I am SO glad you got away, and aren't you lucky to be Canadian and get to go to Cuba without sneaking around. Well, grief is a process, two steps forward, one (or even 3) steps back ... sometimes you've got to relieve the pressure that's building up all the time and just doing your own thing can help tremendously. It takes courage to do what you need to do for yourself.

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