Similar to French or Italian bread, Puerto Rican water bread (pan de agua) uses the same basic ingredients, however the baking procedure is different. The dough is put in a cold oven, set above a pan of boiling water. The bread continues to rise as the oven heats causing the crust to become thin and crisp.
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- ¾ tablespoon sugar
- 2 cups warm water
- ¾ tablespoon salt
- 5 cups plain flour (all-purpose flour)
- polenta, cornmeal or flour for dusting the baking sheet
- 2 egg whites
- 1½ tablespoons water
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together the yeast, sugar, and warm water.
- Cover the mixture and let stand for about 20 minutes (the yeast should form a foam on the top).
- In a separate large mixing bowl, mix together the salt and flour.
- Mix the flour and yeast mixtures together a small amount at a time by adding the flour to the yeast one cup at a time.
- As you add the flour, the dough will start to form. When all the flour is added, knead the dough for about 10 to 15 minutes until it is elastic and no longer sticky
- Grease a large bowl (you can use the one you mixed the yeast or dough in).
- Place the ball of kneaded dough into the bowl, cover, and let rise for 1½ - 2 hours (the dough should double in size).
- When the dough is ready, flour a work area. Place the dough on it and separate into two equal portions.
- Knead the dough portions into two separate long loaves, about 30 cm (12").
- Using a large baking sheet that will hold both loaves of bread, sprinkle some polenta or flour (polenta works better, but flour will do).
- Place the loaves on the board and using a sharp knife place 3 to 4 slashes along the top of the loaves.
- In a bowl, mix together the egg whites and water. Brush the mixture on top of the loaves of bread.
- Place the loaves on the centre rack of a cold oven then place a shallow baking pan on the rack below the loaves. Fill the shallow pan with 1 cup boiling water.
- Wait 10 minutes and then turn the oven on to 205°C. (400°F ; Gas Mark 6) and let bake for 35 minutes. The internal temperature of the loaves should be 90°C (195°F). The loaves should be golden and a little crusty.