Pan de Arroz (Baked in banana leaves)

Pan de Arroz horneado en hojas de platano

IMG_3300One of my favorite treats from time to time that my mom would buy for was Pan de Arroz. She bought these in a special Santa Cruz-style pastry shop called “La Pascana.”  She never baked these because she thought she would offend the people from Santa Cruz for just trying. I love this delicious bread and I was always curios about how to prepare them, so when I was in college, one of my best friends was from Santa cruz and she taught me the “secrets” for this recipe. I taught my mom how to make them but she is still afraid of trying and she loves having an excuse to go to La Pascana and enjoy a real  pan de arroz from Santa Cruz.

Makes 12 large pastries or 24 small pastries

Total time 3 hours

Preparation time 1 hour

Ingredients

3 pounds yuca root, about 4 large roots

1 lb. rice flour (Bob’s Redmill)

2 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

1 cup milk (more or less)

1 cup hot melted Crisco (you can substitute for butter)

1 lb. queso fresco or Monterrey Jack

1-2 banana leaves

Mix the following dry ingredients: Rice, flour, salt, and sugar. Set aside.

Shred the cheese and reserve 1/2 cup. Set aside the rest

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Preparing the Yuca

Cut the yuca roots into 3 segments. Wedge a pairing knife between the skin and the flesh, and pry the bark-like skin away from the flesh (as opposed to peeling it). It pops off in chunks easily.

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Rinse the white pieces in water, put in a pot of water to boil like potatoes.

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When you can insert a fork or knife easily through a few, they’re done, it takes about fifteen minutes. Also, you’ll notice the edges starting to crack. Drain and set aside until cool to the touch.

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Going through the center of the each whole root is a fibrous string. Pull this out of your chunks with your fingers or a pairing knife. Mash the remaining yuca, piece by piece, in a bowl with a potato masher. For this dough, you only want to use the fresh, soft white parts. Discard  any hard, waxy or yellow pieces.

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Preparing the Dough

Into the bowl of mashed yuca, add the rice, flour, salt, and sugar. Knead until you mix the ingredients all together. Add milk a little bit at a time.

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Add milk until the dough starts to hold together. Press down with your hands since it’s very thick. You’ll use about a cup of milk. The dough shouldn’t get outright sticky, but it should barely stick to your hands. Add the melted Crisco and mix really well. It’ll sound squishy. Add the cheese (except a half cup) and knead some more. The final dough should be thick, slightly sticking on hands. Add more milk if needed to get this consistency. Let the dough sit covered in the fridge for 2 hours so that the yuca can  suck in the fat.

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Making the pastries one at the time!

While the dough is resting:

Preheat the oven to 375F

Cut  out 12 or 24 rectangles of the banana leaf. You want them to be about the size of your hand.

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Then you take enough dough to make a small ball in your hand. Flatten the ball into a little cake and place in the middle of a banana leaf. Fold two corners into the center and press into the middle of the cake. Repeat until you run out of dough.

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Don’t worry if the banana leaves don’t stick perfectly.

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Put them on a cookie sheet in the oven for about 25 minutes – until the cakes just start to turn a little golden and the banana leaves start turning yellow.

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If you don’t have banana leaves: Roll a piece of dough the size of your hand and put it directly on top of a baking sheet and flatten them, add a litle bit of the cheese that you reserved. Cook at 375 for 20 min or until golden.

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Pan de Arroz is best enjoyed with a nice cup of coffee or tea at breakfast or afternoon tea time!

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