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Pa de Sant Jordi

(recipe, Johanna Bailey)


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Introduction

This is the official recipe (translated from Catalan) for pa de Sant Jordi, a bread made in bakeries throughout Barcelona every April 23, La Diada de Sant Jordi. Although there are a few different ways to make the bread, this recipe makes about 12 rolls, which can be eaten alone or with toppings. Slice them in half for a unique sandwich bread. (See related post.) (Recipe courtesy of Eduard Crespo of La Fleca Balmes bakery in Barcelona.)

Ingredients

    Pasta Mare (starter dough; must be made 12 to 24 hours in advance)
    1. 3 tsp. active dry yeast
    2. 45 ml (a bit less than ¼ cup) lukewarm water (see Note)
    3. ¼ tsp. salt
    4. 75 g (½ cup plus 2 tablespoons) bread flour (see Note)
    Pastada 1 (sobresada dough)
    1. 2 tsp. active dry yeast
    2. 90 ml (a bit less than ½ cup) lukewarm water
    3. ½ tsp. salt
    4. 200 g (1½ cup plus 1 tablespoon) bread flour
    5. ½ cup sobresada
    6. 40 g (a bit less than ¼ cup) pasta mare (starter dough)
    Pastada 2 (cheese dough)
    1. 2 tsp. active dry yeast
    2. 140 ml (a scant ⅔ cup) lukewarm water
    3. ½ tsp. salt
    4. 200 g (1½ cup plus 1 tablespoon) bread flour
    5. ½ cup grated Emmental cheese
    6. 40 g (a bit less than ¼ cup) pasta mare (starter dough)
    Pastada 3 (walnut dough)
    1. 2 tsp. active dry yeast
    2. 100 ml (about ½ cup) lukewarm water
    3. ½ tsp. salt
    4. 1 Tbsp. sugar
    5. 200 g (1½ cup plus 1 tablespoon) bread flour
    6. 8 g (about 2 teaspoons) soft butter
    7. ½ cup roughly chopped walnuts
    8. 50 g (about ¼ cup) pasta mare (starter dough)

    Steps

    1. Make the pasta mare starter dough, at least 12 to 24 hours in advance: Dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir the salt and flour together in a large bowl and make a hole in the center. Pour the yeast/water mixture into the hole and stir the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are moistened.
    2. Turn your glob of starter dough (which might still be quite floury and dryish at this point) onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes, until the dough feels stretchy. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp dishcloth, leaving the bowl in a warm place. Go do something else for the next 12 to 24 hours. Make the rest of the doughs the next day.
    3. Make Pastada 1 (sobresada dough): Dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir the salt and flour together in a large bowl and make a hole in the center. Put the sobresada and the pasta mare in the middle of the hole and pour the yeast/water mixture on top. Stir the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are moistened. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough feels stretchy. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp dishcloth, leaving the bowl in a warm place.
    4. Make Pastada 2 (cheese dough): Dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir the salt and flour together in a large bowl and make a hole in the center. Put the cheese and the pasta mare in the middle of the hole and pour the yeast/water mixture on top. Stir the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough feels stretchy. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp dishcloth, leaving the bowl in a warm place.
    5. Make Pastada 3 (walnut dough): Dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir the salt, sugar, and flour together in a large bowl and make a hole in the center. Put the butter, the walnuts, and the pasta mare in the middle of the hole and pour the yeast/water mixture on top. Stir the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are moistened. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough feels stretchy. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp dishcloth, leaving the bowl in a warm place.
    6. Wait 1 hour, while your doughs rise.
    7. Assemble the bread: Put your sobresada dough onto a lightly floured surface and use a rolling pin to roll it out into a rectangular shape. The dough should be about ⅛-inch thick. Don't be afraid to use your hands a bit to stretch it into a rectangle. Set it aside. Now take your cheese dough and roll it out into a rectangle. This rectangle should be the same length as the sobresada rectangle, but a few inches wider. Cut your sobresada-dough rectangle lengthwise into 4 equal strips.
    8. Cut your cheese-dough rectangle lengthwise into 5 equal strips (the strips should equal the widths of the strips of sobresada dough). Starting with the cheese dough, stack the strips on top of each other, alternating a cheese dough with a sausage dough to make stripes. In the end, you will have a cheese dough on both the bottom and top of your stack.
    9. Now roll your walnut dough into a rectangle. This rectangle should be the same length as your stack of alternating dough strips, and wide enough to wrap around the entire stack.
    10. Place your stack of alternating dough strips in the middle of the walnut-dough rectangle and wrap the rectangle around the stack. Place the “log” of dough so that the seam of the walnut dough is facing down. Leave it to rise, covered loosely with plastic wrap, for another half hour or so.
    11. Slice the “log” of dough into smaller slabs, as though you were slicing bread (each slice can be an inch or two wide, depending on your preference). Place each piece down flat, so that the stripes are visible. If the dough got a bit squashed in the cutting process, use your hands to re-form each piece into a more attractive oval-ish shape.
    12. Cover your slabs of dough loosely with plastic wrap and let them rise for another hour. (This is the LAST rise, I promise!)
    13. About half an hour before baking, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. When it is time to bake, put a pan of water in the bottom of your oven. Put the rolls on a large baking sheet (you may have to do a couple of batches), and bake until the outside of the walnut dough is a medium golden brown (about 20 to 35 minutes).

    Note

    1. In most cases, I have included both the exact metric and approximate U.S. measurements. I double-checked the liquid conversions using my baby´s Tommee Tippee bottle, and I am sure they are more than accurate (because if you can't trust Tommee Tippee . . . well, the thought doesn’t bear thinking about). 2. Why do I use vague terms such as “about,” “a bit more/less,” “scant” and so on? The answer to this very reasonable question is that the original recipe is enough to serve the entire city of Barcelona (more or less), which means I had to do some major dividing. 3. Bread likes to feel as though it is taking a vacation to a tropical and humid place while it bakes, and putting a pan of water in your oven will provide this atmosphere. If you have a spare steel-drum band sitting around, you can pop them in the bottom of the oven too.