Baking Bread – Cuban Pan De Ajo (Cuban Garlic Bread)

Last week I went down to Miami for the first time to sample and report on the vibrant Miami food community. What I found was a food community full of amazing exile stories, dangerous ocean crossing adventures, and wonderful snapshots of great Miami food fare, especially Cuban food. Along with my staffer Emily, we were especially smitten with the smell, taste,texture and serving methods of Cuban bread. 

Cuban sandwiches are world renowned and a staple at any Cuban restaurant. Emily thinks it is the bread that makes the sandwich. That debate can rage on forever. The actual Cuban white bread is not at all complex, but actually quite simple. It has a different baking method and is made with different ingredients than French or Italian bread. The bread is baked in a cold oven over boiling water before it reaches its desired baking temperature. Cuban bread is then baked with a dab of lard or vegetable shortening. Real Cuban bread is baked in long, baguette-style loaves. It has no preservatives so it will not keep long. After a few days, the bread becomes extremely hard. This bread is made to be enjoyed right away. The best way to use it besides in a sandwich, is to have it served at breakfast. In Cuban households, the bread is toasted with butter and served with a hot mug of cafe con leche for breakfast. 

This bread baking recipe is a great way to savor and enjoy Cuban bread. It is easy to prepare and blends wonderful flavors together to form an outstanding exposure to Cuban food and culture.  

Pan de Ajo (Cuban Garlic Bread)

Serves 8-10

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons diced parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 (2 feet) loaf Cuban bread or French bread, cut into 1-inch thick slices

1. Combine the oil, butter, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Let this mixture sit for at least 15 minutes, so the flavors can blend together.

 2. Preheat the oven to 350*F. 

3. Spread the garlic mixture on one side of each slice of bread. 

4. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and bake for 6 to 10 minutes, until the butter has melted and the bread has browned. 

Serve immediately.

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