Years ago, when Aunt Ilana travelled to Samaná so often that she was practically a resident, she came back from one of her trips with a culinary discovery. Starting now read this post in your head in the voice of Sir David Attenborough, go ahead, it’s very amusing.
Aunt Ilana’s great discovery? Pan de coco (coconut bread). This thick, unleavened bread was sold by street vendors in some remote campo of Samaná. Unfortunately, although she got to try it, she could not get the recipe for it.
Upon hearing the news I was very intrigued. With this as an excuse we set sail for Samaná. OK, we didn’t set sail, we just drove there.
After a night of rest following the long trip (because of the many stops we made to sample the culinary treasures of the stunningly beautiful Samaná) next day I donned my safari outfit and we headed out for the wilderness in search of this most-elusive beast (read “we dressed in shorts and drove to the beach”).
In Playa Rincón, one of the most stunning beaches I have ever seen, we met a lady who made her living from selling pan de coco (coconut bread). We bought about half of what she was carrying, and after we offered her a ride back home – so she could avoid the long walk out of the secluded beach – I got a lesson on how to make Pan de Coco. Although I am confident she will not read this, I nevertheless would like to thank Franca in Playa Rincón, Samaná for sharing her recipe with us.
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 cup coconut flakes (optional)
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Oil a baking tray. Pre-heat oven to 300 ºF (150 ºC)
- In a deep bowl mix flour, coconut milk, milk, salt and baking soda.
- Flour a clean surface.
- Cover your hands with some oil and knead the dough for about 5 minutes (it should be somewhat-shaggy, hence the oiled hands).
- Divide the dough into four portions and make into balls.
- On an oiled baking sheet flatten the balls into circles of approximately 6 inches in diameter.
- Cover the top with the coconut flakes.
- Bake bread for 10 to 15 minutes, pinch with a skewer in the center to check for doneness (it will still be pale).
- When the bread cools down to room temperature toast quickly but at a very high temperature to get the golden brown color on top.
The original recipe did not include the coconut crust on top, this is an experiment of mine that I ended up liking, as it adds another layer of texture to the bread. Take into consideration that, because it is unleavened, the bread is pretty "heavy", it is best served with fish or meat with a lot of sauce, as this is best used to scoop it and clean your plate.
I tried doing it both by hand and with the bread machine and both worked, but it is a lot easier with the bread machine (and quicker as it only needed about a minute of kneading).