The literal translation of this Venezuelan Christmas classic is “Ham Bread”. It, literally, is bread that has been stuffed or rolled with ham, olives, and raisins.
Even though I did not grow up celebrating Christmas, enjoying local and traditional dishes was part of the culture; part of being Venezuelan. For the last 8 years, while living in Miami, I had access to almost anything “Latin” I could think of due to the high concentration of Latin American population that, through the years, have established themselves along the coast of South Florida. So, finding Pan de Jamon, or any other classic wasn’t that difficult. It was just a matter of finding the vendor that had the best one.
This year, I am living in Chapel Hill, NC. Access to Latin American goodies is limited, to say the least. So I called one of my sisters and asked her if she thought it would be a big deal to ship me a couple. We were invited to a Christmas dinner at our neighbors, and we wanted to bring them this festive staple. My sister suggested that making it would be easier, more personal, and probably less expensive. I agreed.
My first attempt was a good practice run, but the result was not satisfactory. Definitely, not good enough to bring to our dinner party. I tried cutting the recipe in half while converting all the measuring units and I made mistakes with the dough. But I gained confidence and realized I could do it.
My second attempt was a complete success. The texture was perfect, and the flavors were there. For my successful attempt, I followed this recipe from What’s 4 Eats with a little personal touch to make it my own.
I made sure I sliced the olives and didn’t use too many of them. As long as the entire surface was evenly sprinkled with olives I was happy. As opposed to the raisins, which I think are amazing in the bread so I am less rigid with the amount I use. Make sure you follow their tip and plump the raisins by soaking them in water before you use them.
For the ham, I used Boar’s Head Smokemaster Beechwood Smoked, Black Forest Ham which I purchased at my grocery store deli counter. And my secret ingredient for the filling were the 4 strips of Trader Joe’s Apple Smoked Bacon that I laid, every few inches, on top of the ham (before the olives and raisins). It was amazing!
A very important thing to consider, which I learned with my first attempt, is that cooking times and/or temperatures can vary from oven to oven. I made my Pan de Jamón with the suggested temperature but cooked it only for 20 minutes.
Let me know if you make this and what you think!