Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pan de Campo (Mexican Camp Bread)

Pan de Campo - made March 8, 2011 from The Pastry Queen's Christmas by Rebecca Rather (book #55)

I hope those of you who celebrated it enjoyed Mardi Gras today.  Lots of revelry, King Cake, and other things I can't mention on my G-rated blog? :) But once it's over, what inevitably follows Fat Tuesday is Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent.  I'm not Catholic or of a religion that officially observes Lent but I did try to give up chocolate once.  Shoot.  Worst 10 minutes ever.

However, if you're made of stronger stuff than me and have given up chocolate or sweets in general, here's a fried bread recipe I tried in your honor.  (If you've given up bread or anything else that gives life meaning, sorry, this won't help you at all.)  Plus I finally got to use the cast iron skillet I'd bought ages ago.  Bonus!  This is probably one of the plainer recipes in The Pastry Queen's Christmas but I was still in a "fried bread-anything tastes good" mode so I thought I'd give it a go.  Although I will be back to this cookbook at some point in the future to try the Apple Spice Layer Cake with Caramel Icing because that just looked good.

The directions for this are very similar to making pie crust - combine the dry ingredients, cut in cold shortening then add the liquid gradually.  As with pie crust, it's best not to overhandle the ingredients because you don't want the dough to get tough or the shortening to melt into the flour.  I wasn't quite sure what I expected from this recipe and I was a little skeptical as I fried it, especially as my cast iron skillet kept smoking while the dough fried and I was afraid it was going to set off my fire alarm.  The outside browned okay but in less time than the 4-5 minutes I was supposed to fry each side so I took it off early.  Surprisingly, I liked the fried bread.  The outside was a little crisp, with a little flakiness like a tortilla (that's from those shortening pockets) and the inside was just like a dense bread.  You definitely don't want to undercook it though so don't be afraid of browning it too much.  The middle should be more cooked than doughy.  You might also want to make yours a bit thinner than mine for easier frying and eating.

I halved the recipe and it still made quite a bit so if you're not sure or you don't have a lot of mouths to feed, I suggest making only a half recipe or even a quarter.  It's easy enough to make again if you decide you like it and want more.

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
1 ½ cups buttermilk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter for frying

1.     In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and sugar.  Use your hands or a pastry cutter to incorporate the shortening into the flour mixture until it is crumbly.  Add the buttermilk ¾ cup at a time and lightly stir until just mixed.
2.     Divide the dough into 6 equal portions and place on a lightly floured work surface.  Gently roll each portion into a quarter-inch-thick disk about 6 inches in diameter.
3.     Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a cast iron or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat.  Add one of the disks and fry for 4-5 minutes on each side until golden brown.  Repeat for the rest of the dough and serve immediately.

Leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and reheated in a skillet or toaster.

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