If you can't find panela, regular dark brown sugar is an excellent substitute.
These cakes have a dense, brioche-like consistency. They are not overly sweet, but they really hit the spot. Before baked, they are coated in panela, a dark sugar.
- 400 g (14 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
- 115 g (4 oz/½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- pinch of sea salt
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) full-cream (whole) milk
- 1 tbsp dried yeast granules
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 125 g (4½ oz) unsalted butter, diced and softened to room temperature
- olive oil, for greasing
- 75 g (2¾ oz) dark brown sugar (preferably grated panela or muscovado)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Rising time: 1 hour 55 minutes
1. Place all but 2 tablespoons of the flour, the sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Mix for a few seconds to combine.
2. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until just warm and pour into a bowl. Stir in the yeast, cover and leave for 10 minutes, or until frothy. Add the yeast mixture, egg and vanilla to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. With the motor running, add the butter and combine well, then knead the mixture for 15–20 minutes, until the dough is smooth.
3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
4. Line the base of a 30 cm x 40 cm (12 in x 16 in) roasting tin with baking paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 3 cm (1¼ in) thick circle. Using a 5 cm (2 in) cookie cutter, cut out 12 rounds of dough and place them, so they are barely touching, in the prepared tin. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm spot for about 45 minutes, until risen.
5. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Sift half the remaining flour over the dough rounds to fill the gaps between them (this prevents the sugar coming into contact with the bottom of the tin and burning). Using a pastry brush, brush all the excess flour off the tops of the dough rounds and into the crevices. Lightly brush the dough with water.
6. Mix the sugar with the remaining flour and, using a spoon and your fingers, cover the dough rounds with a heavy layer of sugar.
7. Bake for 25 minutes, until risen and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for several minutes in the tin. Serve warm with ‘mate’ or coffee. Once cool, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. The cold cakes can be cut in half and filled with dulce de leche (recipe here).
Recipe from The Food of Argentina by Ross Dobson and Rachel Tolosa Paz, Smith Street Books, RRP $44.99