Rumor has it that pan de jamón was invented in the beginning of the 20th Century by Gustavo Ramella in his bakery in Caracas, Venezuela. He was looking for a way to use the ham leftovers during the Christmas season and decided to roll them in a loaf of bread. It didn’t take long for the recipe to become hugely popular and today, it’s one of the main delicacies served on Christmas eve in Venezuela. With time people started to add many other ingredients to the recipe, turning it into an epic culinary celebration in its own right.
That’s why you don’t necessarily need a holiday pretext to try it out. It’s no more difficult than making pizza at home and it’s definitely a lot of fun.
Dough: 1 kg plain flour, 1 table spoon salt, 1 table spoon sugar, 4 table spoons melted butter, 15 gr dry yeast, 200 ml water, 400 ml milk.
Filling: ham (in slices or chopped in small pieces), grated cheese (Emmental, Gouda, Maasdam or any other Swiss-style cheese) squashed olives, raisins, crushed walnuts, finely cut pickled cucumbers, powdered fenugreek, paprika powder, vegetable oil.
Making of the pan de jamón dough is similar to the one for pizza.
Mix the water, the sugar and the dry yeast in a bowl. Leave to rest for about 10 minutes, so the yeast can activate and start to grow. Sieve the flour on a flat surface, add the salt to it and make a well in the middle Start adding the yeast mixture while stirring gently. Continue with the milk and the melted butter. When the consistency becomes more solid, start kneading the dough with your hands. Knead for about 5 to 10 minutes then place the ball of dough in a large bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel or folio to prevent its surface from drying out and leave it to rest for an hour or two. It should increase its size significantly.
Rolling Out, Adding the Filling and Rolling In Again
Take the dough and put it back on the flat surface, knead for a while to push the air bubbles out. Divide the dough in 4 pieces. Take one part, start spreading and rolling it out carefully in a rectangular shape. Try to make it as thin as possible without forcing it to break. When ready, spread some vegetable oil on top and start adding the ingredients for the filling one by one like you would on a pizza. Try to distribute it as equally as you can. Then start to roll in the sheet carefully. When ready, leave aside and start with the next one.
Repeat all steps with the rest of the dough pieces.
Oil the surface of each bread roll well. Oil the baking pan and gently dust it with a little bit of flour. Place all 4 bread rolls inside and bake for about 20-30 minutes in a preheated oven at 180 degrees. During the baking, you can sprinkle some water on top several times to prevent excessive drying out.
Serve it sliced. It looks quite impressive on its own, so no further decoration is necessary.