Pan de Jamon, loosely translated as Ham Bread, is a typical Venezuelan dish specially enjoyed at Christmas time. For those living in Venezuela it’s easy to get: you simply go to your favourite bakery and order and/or buy as many loaves as you and your family want. For those of us living abroad, we need to be a bit more resourceful in trying to recreate this delicious and beloved Christmas treat. This is my version of Pan de Jamon. Yields one large loaf, and can be easily doubled. I used my Kitchenaid mixer but you can also knead by hand.
For the dough:
1 and 1/4 cups of milk
1/2 tablespoon of granulated yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
50 grams of melted butter
500 grams of all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 egg, beaten, for brushing the bread
For the filling:
400 to 500 grams (about a pound) of ham, sliced thinly. I used maple glazed, but honey roasted or black forest would also work nicely, I just trim the edges off
Raisins and pimento-stuffed green olives, as many as you like
Bacon fat to brush the inside of the dough. Simply cook a couple of strips of bacon until translucent (not crispy) and use that fat
Add the sugar and granulated yeast to half a cup of warm milk, stir, cover and let it sit in a warm area for about 15 to 20 minutes, until you see a thick layer of foam on top. Pour this mix into the bowl of a stand-up mixer and incorporate the rest of the milk, the egg and the melted butter. Using the dough hook, begin mixing at the lowest speed. Combine the salt and flour and slowly add to the mix, kneading until the dough is smooth and starts to come clean off the edges. Stop the mixer, cover the bowl and set aside in a warm area for about 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size. Proceed to get the dough out of the bowl and place on a flour-coated surface, knead with your hands for a few minutes until the dough feels soft and doesn’t stick to your fingers. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Using a rolling-pin, roll out the dough into a large rectangle; I like my dough thin, so I leave it less than half a centimeter thick.
Leaving about a 2 centimeter border, brush the dough with the bacon fat. Proceed to cover with the ham slices (making sure you leave that 2 centimeter border). Then sprinkle the raisins on top of the ham, rinse and strain the olives and place them in a row (or two if you really like them), that way you make sure every slice will get at least one olive.
Proceed to roll the dough, brushing the end with a bit of water to help seal it.
Use your fingers to pinch the ends closed and place the loaf diagonally, with the sealed side down, onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a fork to make indentations on the top of the bread and then place in the preheated oven.
About 15 minutes into the cooking time, brush the bread with the beaten egg. Bake for a total of 50 minutes to an hour, checking regularly. Once done and golden brown, take out of the oven and let it cool a bit before slicing into this delicious treat, enjoy!