What is Pa de Vidre ?
Pa de Vidre from Catalonia
As specialists in Mediterranean food, we love helping people understand and discover cuisine from our native area.
For anyone familiar with a tapas menu, pa de vidre may look familiar.
Pa de vidre is famous as the bread Catalan people use to make great tapas. If you’ve ever been curious about it or, better yet, wanted to make it for yourself, you’ve come to the right place! We’ll tell you its history and even provide a secret recipe for this special Catalan bread.
What you will find in this article :
What is pa de vidre ?
Pa de vidre or pan de cristal, also called glass bread in English, is a special type of Catalan bread mostly used for tapas. The bread, similar to ciabatta but not the same, is thin, airy, and has a good crunch. This bread is especially made to absorb flavor, and is the perfect bread to use for tapas like “Pa amb tomaquet,” pa de vidre with tomato, salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. The bread absorbs the flavors perfectly.
On top of this you can put ham, anchovies, and all kinds of cheese for delicious variations.
Our bread has a mild flavor, which allows the more subtle flavors of olive oil and tomato to shine. The fact that there is not much salt in the bread makes it the perfect accompaniment to any kind of meal.
Where and how is pa de vidre made ?
Some people say it was invented back in the 15th century while others tell you it was created more recently, around the 19th century.
What is known with certainty is that pa de vidre was created in a small bakery in Barcelona as the result of a baking mistake. The baker added too much water to the bread which gave it the light texture and crisp crust it’s known for. From that day on, this method has become the traditional way to make pa de vidre.
If you travel to Barcelona you can visit the actual bakery, that goes by the name of the bread it made famous: Pa de Vidre. delivers the bread everywhere in the world through food importers and partners.
How do you make this bread ?
The main difference between pa de vidre and classic bread is that glass bread needs extra hydration and a special cooking technique, which makes this bread extra challenging to bake properly.
Our sources from Catalonia gave us these three secrets to share about how to make this bread:
1. High hydratation: To achieve the correct texture, pa de vidre requires about 96% hydration (the weight of the liquids relative to the weight of the flour). At the start of the process the hydratation should be around 90%.
2. Strong Flour : You also need to use a very strong flour of W 300 to W 350. The closest flour to this in the American market is called bread flour. For truly authentic pa de vidre you will need imported Italian “strong” flour milled specifically for these types of breads. To learn about flour strength, you can check this website or this blog article.
3. Cold Water: You need to start the preparation the day before and use cold water, as the process of kneading will be long, and the dough will warm up pretty quickly.
With these three tips in mind, now follow this recipe:
- Flour (“bread flour” in American markets): 4 cups
- Baking powder: 1 tbsp
- Salt: 1 tbsp
- Water (very cold): 1 ¾ cups
- Olive oil: 2 tbsp
1. Put the flour in a bowl and add the water little by little,fully kneading the water into the dough each time. Patience is the key to this bread coming out well.
2. When there is ⅓ of the water left, add the salt to the dough and continue kneading until the salt is fully incorporated.
3. Finish adding the water little by little and fully incorporating it into the dough each time.
4. Once you have no more water, add the baking powder and knead it completely into the dough.
5. Once the flour, water, and salt are homogeneous, add the olive oil while kneading. Don’t worry if the dough seems very soft; this is normal since the hydratation is higher than regular bread.
6. Once the oil is incorporated, put the dough in an oiled bowl or plastic container, uncovered. Let the dough sit for an hour in a warm area.
7. After 1 hour, punch down the dough (you can wet your hand to make it easier).
8. Let it sit again for 45 minutes then punch down.
9. Let it sit again for 45 minutes then punch it down one more time.
10. Cover the bowl and let the dough sit in the refrigerator overnight or for 12 hours.
11. Preheat the oven at 250 ℃ / 480 ℉. Put a bowl of water in the oven to provide steam during cooking time.
12. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, flour the table, and spread it out with your hands. Cut the dough into bread-shaped pieces.
13. Bake the breadat 250 ℃ / 480 ℉ for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 200 ℃ / 390 ℉ for about 20 minutes.
14. When the bread is ready the crust should be brown and the bread should be very light.
If you are not into cooking and make your own bread, you can find pa de vidre here. We import it straight from Catalonia!
Is it good to buy this kind of bread frozen ?
This kind of bread is a great bread that is made better by beingfrozen. As you read above, the key to this bread’s deliciousness is its hydratation. When the bread is frozen it is holding ice that will give it more water once you reheat it.
Most bakeries and “boulangerie” in Spain freeze it after they make it to give it even more hydratation and make it even crispier.
Don’t be afraid to buy this bread frozen as it will only make it better! Freezing also allows you to store it for a long time in your freezer.
Where can you find pa de vidre ?
Pa de vidre is a traditional bread from Catalonia. If you travel around the region you will find the bread easily in many good restaurants, bakeries or grocery stores.
In the US it is a little bit more complicated since it is harder to find the right ingredients to make the bread and obviously there are fewer bakers from Catalonia to make it.
Fortunately a few companies work with Catalan baking companies and import authentic ones to the U.S., including us. We are lucky to work with a company established in Barcelona, the very same city where this bread was invented.
If you would like to try pa de vidre, or make authentic tapas or delicious “pa amb tomaquet” to pair with Iberico ham or Spanish cold cuts, we will be happy to help you with that. Feel free to check out this product page and get the famous pa de vidre!