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Pan de Jamon, Venezuela’s Holiday Essential

Pan de Jamon

Pan de jamon in Venezuela is for everyone who loves bread, everyone who loves ham, and everyone who loves holidays, explains one of our favorite homecooks Liliana Hernandez. Which pretty much means every single person in her home country, she says. Except vegetarians, of course, and they are likely to just ditch the ham and still make this beloved bread. Because it is a traditional must-eat every December.

”We can’t even imagine Christmas without pan de jamon. Impossible!“ Liliana is one of our favorite Venezuelan homecooks here at Familia Kitchen, and you can find many of her family-famous recipes in our Familia Kitchen Cookbook. Pan de jamon is so popular that bakers back home start making it months before Christmas, she says. ”There is so much demand that everyone starts eating it early. We can’t wait for December.”

And so every end of year, Venezuelans around the world start craving this bread made with yeast, flour, eggs and a little sugar. The dough is pressed into a flat square or rectangle and layered with slices of ham, Manzanillo olives, and sweet raisins. Finally, the mixture is rolled into a loaf and baked for 45 to 50 minutes.

Pan de Jamon filled with olives, ham, turkey bacon
To make pan de jamon, layer ham, olives and smoked turkey bacon on the rolled-out dough.

When the bread comes out of the oven, so toasty-golden and salty-sweet delicioso, that’s when you know: The holidays are almost here, says Liliana. And everyone goes pan de jamon crazy. ”We eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner. We eat it as a snack with a cup of coffee.” Liliana closes her eyes and savors the memory of panes de jamon past.

”I love it most when it it still warm, just out of the oven, with that aroma maravilloso that fills the whole house,” she sighs.

Pan de Jamon
Hot, sweet-and-savory pan de jamon is a Christmas tradition in Venezuela.

Today Liliana and her family live in the Atlanta, Georgia area, so she can’t just pop over to a local bakery and get her pan de jamon fix. “When you don’t live in Venezuela, we have to make it ourselves, because we must have it for Christmas. It’s just not Christmas without it.”

And so Liliana did what so many Latinos who long for the sabor of the homelands they left behind do. She taught herself to bake this traditional bread and started a new family tradition.

A Starring Role at the Christmas Feast

A second reason pan de jamon must be baked: It is an essential component of Venezuela’s classic plato Navideño, or Christmas meal, says Liliana. Whether you host your party on Christmas Eve (like her family does) or Christmas Day, you will find the following comida on just about every Venezuelan table, says Liliana. Each person is served all four of this traditional quartet. One: pan de jamon. Two: hallaca, the Venezuelan take on tamales, using banana leaves. Three: pernil, a slow-cooked hunk of crispy-skinned pork that is fall-of-the-bone juicy. And four: chicken salad.

Christmas in Venezuela means pernil, hallaca, pan de jamon and chicken salad.
Christmas in Venezuela means a dish with all four: pan de jamon, pernil, hallaca and chicken salad.

What makes pan de jamon different from its three Christmas cohorts is that it is served at the big holiday feast and throughout the entire holiday season, says Liliana.

”Pan de jamon is the main reason everyone in Venezuela has to go on a diet very January,” she jokes. ”We eat too much of it. We can’t stop. We all love it so much.”

For more of Liliana’s family-famous Venezuelan recipes, try her life-changing bienmesabe cake, festive-main asado negro main dish, can’t-stop-at-one cheese-stuffed tequeños, handmade toasted corn flour arepas, with their reina pepiada and carne mechada arepa fillings, and her mother’s traditional potato salad: ensalada rusa . All are delicioso—we have made them all and love them. To watch her in action, be sure to check out Liliana on her YouTube channel Mi Show de Cocina, where she is working her way through favorite Venezuelan dishes like these this pan de jamon, pernil and more!

Ready to Make Venezuela’s Pan de Jamon?

Pan de Jamon, Venezuela’s Holiday Essential

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Liliana Hernández Cuisine: Venezuelan
Servings

32

servings
Prep time

1

hour 
Cooking time

50

minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp 2 granulated yeast

  • 3 Tbsp 3 sugar, divided

  • 2 cups 2 warm water

  • 4 4 eggs

  • 6 Tbsp 6 powdered milk

  • 1 Tbsp 1 salt

  • 6 Tbsp 6 unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 8 cups 8 flour

  • 1 cup 1 butter, melted (for brushing on the baked bread)

  • 2 lbs 2 ham slices

  • 1 cup 1 raisins

  • 2 cups 2 olives stuffed

  • 1/2 lb 1/2 turkey bacon, smoked

  • For the Glaze
  • 1 1 egg

  • 1 Tbsp 1 sugar

  • 1 Tbsp 1 milk or water

Directions

  • Fill a small bowl filled with warm water. Sprinkle in the yeast. Add 1 tbsp sugar and stir the mixture lightly.
  • Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place into a warm area for 15 minutes.
  • When the yeast starts to rise, place the mixture in a larger bowl. Add the eggs, milk, the rest of the sugar, and the salt. Stir lightly.
  • Slowly add the flour to the bowl. When all the flour has been added, gently mix the ingredients a couple of times.
  • Place the loose dough mixture on a floured working surface. Lightly work it with two bowl scrapers until the flour mixture starts to come together.
  • Add the butter and work it into the dough.
  • Flour your palms and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, when it will start to firm up into a mound.
  • Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (for 4 loaves). Place the quarters on a lightly greased sheet sheet tray, 2 per tray to give them room to rise. Lightly spritz them with oil and cover with a kitchen towel.
  • Pick up one of the dough quarters. Lightly knead it for 1 minute to shape it into a smooth, rounded loaf with a flattened top. Place on a lightly floured work surface.
  • With your hands, gently press the dough into a flattened round, pressing out the air bubbles. With a baking pin, gently roll the dough into a square or rectangle from the middle out, so that it is about 1/8th thick.
  • Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the entire surface of the dough with melted butter.
  • Place slices of ham in a layer over the dough. If the slices are thin, Liliana layers two at a time.
  • Sprinkle ¼ of the olives, ¼ of the raisins, and ¼ of the turkey bacon over the ham.
  • Fold in the border of each side, about ½ inch.
  • Gently roll a long side of the dough, over and over—until it forms a long, thin log, about 3 inches wide.
  • Liliana likes to decorate her bread with thin strips of dough. Strips, half moons, circles—any shape is fine, it’s up to you, she says. Place in the 350°-heated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until the dough turns light golden-brown. Check on the pan de jamon midway to brush on another layer of glaze.
  • When the bread is ready, let it cool for a few minutes and serve. Liliana advises cutting yourself a slice when it’s right out of the oven. It’s delicioso alone and even better with a cup of coffee, she says.
  • For the big Christmas meal, serve pan de jamon with an hallaca, slices of pernil, and chicken salad: the traditional Venezuelan plate. From Liliana to everyone reading this: ¡Feliz Navidad!

Recipe Video

Notes

  • Here’s Liliana’s personal pan de jamon baking tip: When the bread is ready, take it out of the oven and run a bar of butter over the top of all 4 loaves. This will add even more buttery flavor and a smoother texture, advises Liliana. For step-by-step inspiration, watch Liliana make this pan de jamon with her family following along on her YouTube channel Mi Show de Cocina episode.

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