Pan de Mallorca are an egg-rich but light-textured, gently sweet bread roll from Puerto Rico. They’re easy to recognize, coiled up and dusted with sugar, and make a delicious breakfast or snack.
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For a few years now my elder son has had a week’s break in February from school. It has always felt a bit of an awkward time as the weather is generally pretty bad still, so it’s hard to spend much time outside. There’s nothing particularly special going on as a distraction, but he always needed occupied.
I always hoped we might go away, but it was never possible with my husband’s work so we muddled through. Until last year, that was, when I jumped at the possibility of going away. I looked into a few options before we then settled on going to Puerto Rico.
We all loved our short break in San Juan – there was something truly amazing about shoveling snow at home in the morning then walking in shorts and T-shirt, spotting parrots in the afternoon. We enjoyed visiting the rain forest, the beach and the old buildings and fort in San Juan. And we most definitely enjoyed the food.
From delicious fresh seafood to various forms of plantain (including mofongo), the mango smoothies that the kids loved and the rum cocktails for us, there was much to enjoy. Pan de Mallorca became a popular choice for us for breakfast.
What are the origins of pan de Mallorca?
While this is often called a Puerto Rican sweet roll, the origins are from Spain. They derive from ensaïmades, a bread from the island of Mallorca (or Majorca as it is often spelt when anglicized), hence the name.
Ensaïmades has that same coiled form as you can see here, and is also an egg-rich sweet bread. It can be both smaller rolls or larger breads. Traditionally, they are otherwise very similar to the Puerto Rican take on them, but in more recent times you also commonly find them filled with cream or other fillings.
Tips for making Puerto Rican sweet rolls
These are a yeasted bread, so follow the relatively typical method of mixing, kneading, first rise, form, then a second rise before baking. The main difference is you form the rolls in coils rather than just round buns. This gives them slight layers, as well as looking pretty.
Some tips for making these:
- Don’t skip the butter and egg yolks! I know, it seems quite a lot, but they do both really add to the flavor of this delicious bread.
- Make sure you don’t rush the rises, particularly the second one. You want to make sure the bread ‘relaxes’ into a wide coil.
- Roll the dough into smooth ball before rolling out into a long rope. This helps the edges to be nice and smooth which you’ll see in the final form.
- Tuck the end of the coil under the roll – this helps to stop it un-coiling.
- These bake relatively quickly so keep a close eye. I think I left these a little longer than I might have wanted, ideally (though we still devoured them, as did friends we shared with).
How would you serve these?
The most typical was to have these is simply dusted with powdered sugar and enjoyed for breakfast alongside a cup of coffee.
As with most breads, these are best the day they are made. However, if you have any leftover, then a popular way to use day-old bread is split in half through the middle, buttered and toasted then made into a sandwich filled with ham and cheese. In fact, it was as a sandwich that we had them for breakfast ourselves.
Whenever you enjoy it, the delicious flavor and light texture of these Puerto Rican sweet rolls are sure to win you over. And I know it wasn’t just memories of our trip that made these pan de Mallorca so popular here – give them a try and enjoy yourself!
Try these other delicious breads:
- Japanese milk bread
- Lemon thyme focaccia
- Fig and walnut bread
- Caramelized onion sourdough bread
- Plus get more breakfast recipes and regional American recipes in the archives.
Pan de Mallorca (Puerto Rican sweet rolls)
- 1 tsp active dried yeast (instant yeast)
- 1/4 cup water 60ml, warm
- 1/4 cup milk 60ml, warm
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter 115g (1 stick), melted and cooled
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup sugar 4 tbsp
- 2 cups bread flour 280g (or all purpose/plain if unavailable)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- a little powdered sugar/icing sugar to serve
- Put the warm water and milk together in a small bowl and sprinkle over the yeast. Leave a couple minutes to start to activate while you prepare other ingredients. Note the water & milk mix should just be tepid, not hot, so it doesn't kill the yeast.
- Set aside 2tbsp of the butter for later. Whisk together the remaining melted butter, sugar and egg yolks until well combined.
- Add the yeast mixture to the butter-egg mixture and mix then add the flour and salt. Mix well so it comes together as a ball of dough. The dough should be pretty soft and slightly sticky but still come away from your hands and the bowl easily. If too soft, add a little more flour, and if it feels dry, add a little more milk.
- Knead the dough slightly for a couple minutes then put in a bowl, cover with a cloth or cling wrap/film and set aside in a warm room-temp for approx 40 mins – 1 hour until the dough doubles in size.
- Prepare a baking sheet/tray by lining with a silicone mat or parchment. (A light colored baking sheet is recommended so the base doesn't darken too much.)
- Gently knock back (deflate) the dough and divide into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece on a lightly floured surface into a smooth ball then roll it out into a long rope, around 3/4 inch (2cm) thick and 18 inches (45cm) long. Roll up the rope of dough in a coil so it's touching the dough next to it but not overly tight. Brush the side of the dough with a little melted butter as you go to help it stick. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
- Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough and make sure you leave a good 2 inches (5cm) or more between the dough coils. Lightly cover the tray and leave at warm room temp for around 40 mins – 1 hour to double in size again – it can be hard to tell but you should see a noticeable increase in size.
- Pre-heat the oven to 375F/190C. Brush the top of the rolls with additional melted butter then bake for approx 12-15 minutes until the tops are golden. Allow to cool slightly then sprinkle with powdered sugar/icing sugar before serving.
Recipe adapted from The Noshery, amongst other sources.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline’s Cooking Amazon store.
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