Ube Cheese Pandesal

“Philippines’ most beloved crumb-dusted bread roll…[is] a bakery staple, a standard breakfast item, and a go-to choice for afternoon merienda, or snack. Pandesal translates to ‘salt bread’ in Spanish but it doesn’t taste salty. Instead, it’s the ideal canvas for smearing with myriad spreads and plunging into steaming cups of warm beverages. It’s as ubiquitous as bagels in New York or baguettes in France. It’s iconic. A national treasure.” —Arlyn Osborne

Photo by Linda Xiao
20 rolls
Recipe by
Arlyn Osborne

For the Dough

4 tbsp (56 grams) unsalted Plugrà butter
1 cup (240 grams) whole milk
⅓ cup (66 grams) plus 2 tbsp (25 g) granulated sugar, divided
One ¼ oz. (7 grams) envelope active dry yeast
⅓ cup (83 grams) ube halaya, at room temp
1 large egg, at room temp
1 tsp ube paste
3¾ cups (468 grams) all-purpose flour
1½ tsp Kosher salt

For the Filling

¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon (200 grams) ube halaya, cold
Twenty 5-gram pieces Velveeta cheese, shaped into 1-inch (2.5 centimeters) coins (see Note)
¼ cup (25 grams) finely crushed cracker crumbs
For the Dough: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Whisk in the milk and heat until an instant-read thermometer registers between 110° and 115°F (43° and 46°C).
Remove from the heat. Add 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of the sugar, sprinkle the yeast over top, and whisk to combine. Let sit undisturbed until foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the ube halaya, the egg, the remaining ⅓ cup (66 grams) of sugar, and the ube paste.
Fit a stand mixer with the dough hook. In the stand mixer bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture and stir with a fork until a sticky dough comes together.
Fasten the bowl into the stand mixer and knead on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through, until the dough is smooth, stretchy, and no longer sticky, 7 to 10 minutes.
Grease a large bowl with cooking spray. Shape the dough into a ball and place it into the bowl. Flip the dough over (this greases both sides). Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until puffed and nearly doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
To Assemble: Press the dough down with your fist to expel the air and transfer to an unfloured work surface. Divide the dough into 20 equal portions (about 48 grams each). Keep the portions loosely covered with plastic wrap while you work.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Working with one portion of dough at a time, cup your hand over the dough and roll it around in a circular motion against the work surface until it forms a smooth ball.
Using your hand, flatten the ball into a 2 ½-inch (6.5 centimeters) round. Add 2 teaspoons (10 grams) of ube halaya to the center of the dough and press a cheese coin into it. Bring up the edges of the dough, and pinch to seal. Dip the top of the bun into the graham cracker crumbs and place seam-side down on the lined pan, arranging the buns in five rows of 4, spacing them 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) apart.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until puffed and expanded in size about 50 percent, about 1 hour. (The buns will not be touching, but the gaps between them should be almost closed).
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Bake until puffed, the buns are touching, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the side of one of the middle buns registers 190°F (88°C), about 20 minutes.
As soon as they come out of the oven, transfer the pan to a wire rack and cover loosely with a tea towel for 10 minutes (this helps them soften a bit). The filling can be quite hot so just be mindful.
Store in a resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator or freezer. Reheat in the microwave.
To portion the 5 grams pieces of Velveeta cheese, cut half of a 16 ounce (450 grams) block into 24 even squares (you’ll only use 20 pieces).
Excerpted with permission from Sugarcane by Arlyn Osborne, published by ‎Hardie Grant Publishing