My favorite ube-cheese pandesal recipe creates a super soft and fluffy bread, stuffed with more ube and cheese, and made even cheesier by a cheese crumb coating.
One of the biggest food trends to hit the country last 2020 was without a doubt the ube-cheese pandesal trend. There was a time when everywhere you turned you’d find someone advertising their own version for sale. Not all of them were satisfactory in the least, but the food trend took off because ube and cheese are a fine combination. In fact, it’s one of my personal favorites, which is why despite the fanfare dying down, I am still here, writing about the best ube-cheese pandesal recipe I’ve made so far. It even has a cheese crumb coating to make sure you get enough of both ube and cheese to satisfy.
Actually, this ube-cheese pandesal obsession of mine began during the ECQ. It initially only involved me buying ube-cheese pandesal from specific purveyors certain online food sites listed as “best”. None of them lived up to my expectations at all and many were hella expensive, so in the end I just felt bad spending so much on Lalamove deliveries. Many were bland or tough as rocks. (Needless to say, some credibility was lost there lol.)
Ironically, it was the ube-cheese pandesal made by a nearby less “mainstream” seller that won my heart. This was the time ube-cheese pandesal was having its prime moment, and I rode that trend with glee. But because I am me and I am never satisfied with just buying stuff I think I can make, I had to go and try my hand at it.
I researched like a fiend because I had an idea of the kind of recipe I wanted. The bread should have actual ube halaya and not just flavoring or powder. It needed to be super soft and fluffy, even after refrigeration or reheating. I set up so much parameters it took me a while to finally settle on a recipe to try, and after the R&D I am proud to say THIS is my favorite ube-cheese pandesal recipe to date.
This recipe is from The Maya Kitchen’s site. I haven’t made enough recipes from there to get a good grasp of their success rate, but the moment I made their dough I had a good feeling. I’ve made enough yeast breads to judge just from the dough if a bread was going to be soft and fluffy, and let me just tell you: This ube-cheese pandesal was EVERYTHING I could’ve asked for, both in the making part AND the eating part. Like I said, it is PERFECTION. I did do a lot of rewriting for the recipe so you may find my instructions a bit different from the original, but I have made this several times following my process and they’ve turned out great each time.
This recipe is super easy to make, and it yields over 20 pieces of ube-cheese pandesal. Sounds like a lot but I doubt you’d have any problems having more than 2-3 pieces in one sitting. Trust me on that. You can use whatever cheese you’d like to fill it, add as much ube as you want for that matter, and make it your own. (Not so much that you can’t seal it though!) It even has a special crumb mixture you roll the pandesal in for extra cheesy flavor. That coating really just elevated this thing into gourmet territory, and I am completely and utterly in love with it.
- When making the dough, start with 3 cups flour first. Knead for about 5 minutes and gauge whether the dough is too wet. If the dough seems too soft to handle/shapeless at this point, add about 2 Tablespoons more of flour at a time, but DO NOT go over ¼ cup of extra flour in total. This is important because we want to maintain the fluffiness of the dough. Too much flour will make it tough. In my experience, I usually need to add about 4 Tablespoons more flour until the dough becomes just supple enough to handle. We do want the dough a little wet and sticky, but not too wet.
- After about 10 minutes of kneading, check the dough for elasticity. If you pull a part of the dough upward, it should have enough elasticity that it won’t just snap and break that easily. (It still will break. We’re not making rubber.) If it doesn’t feel that elastic yet, knead for 2 more minutes but do not overwork! Overworked dough will also turn tough.
- When handling the dough, rather than use flour, lightly grease your hands with oil instead. Make sure to also LIGHTLY coat the bowl where your dough will proof to encourage an even rise and avoid sticking.
- After the initial proof seems finished but you’re not quite sure if your dough has doubled enough, there is another way to check if it can move on to the shaping stage. Poke the dough at the center with a finger, just deep enough to create a half inch indent, then watch how the dough reacts. If it comes back up slowly and leaves a small indentation, then it’s ready. If it bounces back too fast, give it another few minutes to continue rising. (Watch the video for a visual representation.)
- I highly recommend using high-quality ube jam with less liquid or water content. Especially for the filling, go with the thicker type of jam. Some jams are very runny, and while that’s fine for the dough, I find that it doesn’t quite create a satisfyingly creamy filling. I have made this recipe with different brands and I always go back to my personal favorite, which is Bahay Pastulan‘s ube halaya. (Not a fan of Michelle’s. Sorry.)
- You can use any sort of easy-melting cheese for the filling. Go for one that’s more salty for flavor contrast. You can also use cream cheese, beaten with a touch of sugar until smooth. Cream cheese spread works too.
- Make sure to seal the filling inside the dough very well, then pinch the seam closed. I like to gently roll the dough ball out on my work surface until the seam all but disappears. It’ll be a hassle if the filling pops out after second proof and baking.
- The cheese crumb coating adds pizzaz to this pandesal so please do not skip! The breadcrumb used here is not the one for frying. It’s the fine type of breadcrumb. (I bought mine from Shopee.)
- Please avoid banging or dropping the baking pan at any point, most especially when you’re on the second proof. The domes will sink after baking and result in heartbreak lol. I accidentally dropped mine, thus the sunken tops on some of my pandesal. The good news is, it will still taste great. The bad news is, it will not look perfect.
- Bake pandesal in a preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until desired doneness. I take them out when they’re firm to the touch at the 20-minute mark, but some like to bake them until slightly browned around the sides. I personally don’t go to that extent because I’m afraid they will dry up.
- This pandesal is best enjoyed warm, when the cheese inside is still oozing. While the bread will stay soft at room temp or even when refrigerated, it’s best to reheat in the toaster so the cheese will melt and give you a great eating experience. Pair with a hot cup of coffee, or my favorite Ube Latte recipe.
The Best Fluffy Ube-Cheese Pandesal
Makes 22 to 23 buns
For the ube pandesal dough
- 3 to 3¼ cups 360 to 390 grams all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon 17 grams instant dry yeast
- 1 cup 240 mL fresh milk, room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon 12 grams sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon ube flavoring and coloring
- ½ cup 113 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ⅓ cup 80 grams ube halaya/ube jam
For the filling
- ¼ to ⅓ cup 60 to 80 grams ube halaya/ube jam, more or less as needed
- Quick melting cheese or Monterey jack cheese or a combination*
For the cheese crumb mixture
- ⅛ to ¼ cup 11.5 to 23 grams grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup 30 grams finely grated cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup 30 grams bread crumbs
- ¼ cup 30 grams powdered milk
- ⅛ cup 15 grams powdered sugar
- 1 Tablespoon 14 grams butter, melted and cooled
Make the pandesal dough
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 3 cups all-purpose flour with the rest of the ingredients for the dough. Mix together using a spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough is formed.
- Attach the bowl onto the stand mixer. Using the dough hook, knead the dough for about 10 minutes on medium-low until the dough is smooth and elastic. If the dough seems too soft to handle, add about 2 Tablespoons of flour at a time, but do not go over ¼ cup of extra flour in total.
- With lightly greased hands, shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly-greased bowl. Cover and let it ferment for 40 to 60 minutes (depending on the weather), or until dough has doubled in size.
Make the cheese crumb mixture
- In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the crumb topping. Set aside.
Form and bake the pandesal
- Once dough has sufficiently proofed, punch down and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly to deflate then divide into 40-gram pieces, rolling each piece into balls. You’ll get between 22 to 23 pieces.
- Working quickly, take the first piece of dough you cut out and flatten into a disk. Spread about 1½ teaspoons of ube halaya/ube jam in the center, followed by your choice of filling. It could be a thick slice of whatever salty and meltable cheese you like.*
- Fold the sides of the dough up to enclose the filling and pinch to seal. Roll the dough seal-side down briefly just to smooth out the seam. Place the filled dough in the prepared cheese crumb mixture and coat all over, pressing some of the bits against the dough to adhere. (I like to spoon the crumbs all over so I don’t have to move the filled pandesal around and deform it.)
- Repeat with the rest of the dough balls, working in the sequence the dough was portioned. Try to work as quickly as possible so the pandesal do not get overproofed. Place the formed pandesal about ¼-inch apart in a baking sheet to give them a bit of room to expand. Cover with cheesecloth and let proof a final time, about 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in size. In the meantime, preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Bake pandesal in a preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until desired doneness. I take them out when they’re firm to the touch at the 20-minute mark, but some like to bake them until slightly browned around the sides.
- Allow the buns to cool for about 5 minutes or they’ll be too hot to touch. Consume with Iced Ube Latte or a hot cup of coffee while warm and cheese inside is oozing. Leftovers will stay super soft even cold or at room temperature, but it’s best when reheated in a toaster to get the cheese melted again.
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