Christmas is around the corner and my house is smelling like freshly made Venezuelan pan de Jamon (ham bread) already.
I’m one of those that are overly excited about Christmas. I have always been this way, just like my mom.
But living outside my country and far away from my family makes the holidays bittersweet.
These recipes always make me feel closer to home.
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What is pan de Jamon?
Pan de jamón literally means ham bread. It’s a semi-sweet bread that is filled mainly with smoked ham.
It’s a Christmas recipe. We usually can’t find pan de Jamon in the bakeries out of season. It’s served during the entire season (Nov-Dec) as a snack.
I like it for breakfast. It’s a great upgrade from my simple whole-grain ham and cheese sandwich.
Also, you can find it in almost any Christmas party as a side dish for other traditional recipes like hallacas and pernil.
How to make the bread?
The spongy semi-sweet bread dough is the most important step of this recipe. You need to be patient with the fermentation process. If you rush it, the bread will be too dense and hard to chew.
Making bread is almost a zen experience for me. It puts my patience to test and kneading is kind of relaxing.
You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook for a faster result. it will make the process less messy and quick.
A proper stand mixer is definitely on my list in case Santa is reading this blog *wink wink*.
This recipe yields for 2 big loaves of bread or 3 medium sizes. You can double the number of ingredients in case you need to make more loaves of bread.
The staple ingredients for the bread dough are:
- 1 kg flour (about 7 cups)
- 2 tbsp granulated yeast
- ½ cup butter at room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup of water
The first step for a spongy and soft bread is to “activate” the yeast. You need to warm 1 cup of water and add 2 tbsp of yeast. Mix with a spoon and let it grow for 5 minutes.
In the meantime, warm the milk and add the sugar and the salt. Mix well and try to dissolve the sugar the best you can.
Add the flour and the yeast in warm water. Mix using a low speed. Then, add the room temperature butter and the milk — with sugar and salt. Mix until it is completely homogeneous.
Then add 1 egg at the time and mix until you get a homogeneous dough that separates from the bowl.
In a big bowl add the flour and form a Vulcan with a hole in the center. Add the yeast in the water at the center. With your hand mix well.
Then, add the butter and slowly the milk with sugar and salt. It’s important that the butter is at room temperature or softened. It must be soft enough so you can integrate it well just using your hands. It’s a common mistake to use hard butter and end up with butter clumps.
Finally, add the eggs one at the time.
In a clean flat surface sprinkle some flour to avoid the dough sticking to the surface. Knead until you have a big ball that is no longer sticking to your fingers.
Now that you have the dough, it’s crucial to let it rest and grow. Be patient and let the ball of dough sit in a warm place for 40 minutes.
A nice trick is to let the dough rest in the oven with a glass of hot water. This will keep the environment warm and steady.
What is inside a pan de Jamon?
The filling is as important as the bread. It’s where the flavor is.
A good pan de jamón has three basic ingredients and fillings: smoked ham, raisins and green olives.
I like to add bacon to the mix to give an extra flavor to the ham.
In some parts of Venezuela, they even add cream cheese.
Just make sure to add a generous amount of filling per bread. There is nothing sadder than a pan de Jamon that is basically just bread.
- 1 kg all-purpose flour (note 1)
- 2 tbsp granulated yeast
- ½ cup butter (room temperature)
- 3 eggs (note 2)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 cup milk (note 3)
- 1 cup water (note 3)
- 400 gr bacon sliced
- 600 gr smoked ham
- 1 cup green olives without seed
- 1 cup raisins
Add the yeast to the warm water and mix with a spoon. Let it chill for 5 minutes. In the meantime, add the sugar and the salt to the warm milk. Stir to ensure the sugar dissolves.
In a big bowl, add the flour and form a Vulcan with a hole in the center. Add the yeast at the center. With your hand mix well.
Then, add the butter and slowly the milk. The butter must be at room temperature.
Add two eggs one at the time. Keep kneading.
In a clean flat surface sprinkle some flour to avoid the dough sticking to the surface. Knead until you have a big ball that is no longer sticking to your fingers. Let the dough sit in a warm place for 40 minutes.
Cut the dough into two separate balls. Using a rolling pin flatten the dough until it is 1cm thick (about ½ inch).
Cover the center of the dough with ham, bacon, raisins and sliced olives (see the picture above). Fold the dough to make a roll.
Optional: decor with the remaining of the dough.
Beat the remaining egg and egg wash the loaves of bread.
Take to the oven for 50 minutes at 180ºC
- Additionally, I would add ½ cup of flour for the kneading process. If you use a stand mixer it won’t be necessary.
- 2 eggs for the bread dough and 1 for egg wash before baking.
- The water and milk must be warm. This will activate the yeast.