Truth be told, I have been slacking on that Christmas spirit. The summer and fall have been something of blur and I’m just happy to be home and settling in before winter officially kicks in. There’s a pink tinsel Christmas tree I may drag out of the closet by the weekend, I have a batch of cranberry bitters lurking in the corner of the kitchen, but let’s face it, I’m super-lazy about the holidays.
And for the most part, “holiday” food hasn’t been really on my radar. I’ve been obsessed with soups, curries, pizza, growing kombucha babies in tangy tea, gathering supplies for making bitters and pickles. I roasted a batch of chestnuts for kicks last night, and wondered why I don’t do this more often.
But sometimes all it takes to kindle a little holiday cheer is baking up a childhood holiday favorite. But for me it’s not gingerbread or cookies or sugary cakes, but a special savory bread my dad would make (and still does) around Christmas.
This time of year Venezuelan many bakers and home chefs make a rustic, soft bread stuffed with a combination of ham, olives, raisins and capers, not surprising called pan con jamon (ham bread). This sweet, salty and smoky mashup so typically Spanish and tastes great any time of year, but for me it will always taste and smell of Christmas. Or even just feel festive when I’m buying up bottles of olives stuffed with pimentos or capers. But I’ll let you in on a terrible secret: as a miserably picky child, I loathed olives. I’d scream if you got one near me. Yet once a year, this bread would coax the reluctant olive-fan out of me!
Of course, my version is entirely hamless. But my dad’s bread deserves better than factory-made faux ham. There’s where juicy, smoky roasted red bell peppers step in and provide the perfect sweet, savory base. I douse the generous pepper-olive-caper-raisin filling with plenty of extra virgin olive oil for fatty goodness and sweetened it up with a touch of brown sugar and a dash liquid smoke. A touch of thyme, garlic and oregano round out the flavors
Typically pan con jamon is either shaped like a big long rolled up tube, stromboli-style, or formed into small individually round shaped buns. For batch I opted for cinnamon-bun style pinwheels for single-serving ease with with a festive look. And since I’m a huge fan of no-knead bread, I suggest you opt for the overnight fermentation for the fullest-flavored, semi-no knead dough, but you could speed the process along and get shaping the buns after a 2 hour rise.
If you’re looking for a savory alternative to holiday breakfasts or brunches, do give these pan sin jamon pinwheels a go!
- 1 1/4 cups gently warmed unsweetened plain almond milk or rice milk
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- One 1/4 oz packet active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons melted virgin coconut oil
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting work surface
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 12 ounce jar roasted red peppers
- 5.75 ounce jar pimento-stuffed green olives (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 2.4 ounce capers (about 2/3 cup)
- 1 cup dark raisins
- 2 tablepsoons dark brown sugar
- 1 clove garlic, minced or grated on a microplane grater to a fine pulp
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Extra olive oil for brushing
- Smoked salt for sprinkling
1. Pour the warm almond milk into a bowl, whisk in the brown sugar and sprinkle the yeast on top. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 10 minutes until foamy.
2. Whisk in the melted coconut oil, then stir in the flour 1 cup at a time and stir for a few minutes into a thick, slightly sticky dough. Cover the top of the bowl tightly with a double layer of plastic wrap and set aside overnight for about 12 hours, or for a minimum of 2 hour or until doubled in size.
3. While the dough is done rising, drain the peppers very well, dice and transfer to a large colander. Drain the olives, roughly dice and add to the peppers. Drain the capers, add to the olives and peppers and using your hands firmly squeeze everything to remove as much liquid as possible. Transfer to a small bowl, add the remaining filling ingredients EXCEPT for the olive oil and combine thoroughly. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. Generously flour a large work surface and use your hands or a rubber spatula to transfer the dough to the work surface. Sprinkle the top of the dough generously with flour, then dust a rolling pin with flour and roll the dough into a rectangle roughly 16 x 10. If necessary, sprinkle the dough with flour to stop any sticking. Brush the olive oil over the dough, leaving about 1 inch of space around the edges.
5. Use your hand to press down on the filling in the bowl and drain away any excess liquid that may have collected. Spread the filling in an even layer over the olive oil. Carefully roll up the dough like a jelly roll and pinch the along the seam to seal, then pinch and tuck in the ends. Place the dough log seam side down and slice into pieces about 1 1/2 inches thick.
6. Carefully transfer the slices (they may be a little fragile, loaded with filling) about 2 inches apart on the paper-lined baking sheets. Gently re-shape the slices if necessary. Cover buns with a damp, clean kitchen cloth and set aside for about 1 hour or until doubled in size. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375F.
7. Gently dab a little olive oil on top of buns and sprinkle with a little smoked salt (just a touch, this is optional but adds another smoky dimension) Bake for 35 minutes or until golden and crusty. Cool slightly before serving. Tightly wrap leftovers and store in the fridge. These are best reheated before serving.