What’s the difference between French bread and Cuban bread? Not a whole lot. However, since tonight’s dinner called for French bread and dinner on Saturday calls for Cuban bread, and since I purchased neither at the grocery store on errand day, I decided to make a batch of each to compare them myself.
Basically, the only difference (at least between the recipes I checked) was that French bread uses shortening and Cuban bread uses lard. It might have been a more apples-to-apples comparison if I had turned both dough mixtures into either rolls or a long loaf, but I didn’t. Can you figure out which was which?
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
3 tablespoons lard*
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water with part of the sugar, then combine with all remaining ingredients. Knead until smooth and let rise for an hour or so. Deflate, divide into six portions and let set for 15 minutes. Form each piece into a log-shaped roll with pointed ends and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Let rise for another hour. If desired, spritz with water and slash a slit in the top of each roll lengthwise. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
*If you don’t have lard, just substitute with butter or shortening.
I baked the Cuban bread as directed in this recipe, and it turned out to be a bit more “crunchy” than I prefer, unlike the French bread recipe I used which was nice and soft. However, that’s a problem easily solved, just by shortening the baking time, (which is reflected in the directions above).
One use for Cuban bread is to make Cuban sandwiches. Have you ever had one of those? We have and they’re delicious, and always remind us of the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. Layer sliced ham, sliced roast pork (find a recipe for a pork marinade here), salami (in some versions), Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on the bread. Then press and grill until cheese melts. (We use the “flat” side of our waffle iron; other options include a panini press or two frying pans.)
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