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- What is Pan de Cristal?
- Baker’s Percentage Table
- ⏰ Sample Schedule:
- 🛠 Tools Needed:
- 🛒 Ingredients Needed:
- 🧑🍳 How to Make Sourdough Pan de Cristal (Glass Bread)
- 6. Bake
- How to Store:
- How to Serve:
- Sourdough Pan de Cristal FAQs:
- Sourdough Pan de Cristal (Glass Bread)
- Other Recipes You Might Like:
If you’ve ever wondered about making a 100% hydration sourdough bread, this sourdough version of Pan de Cristal, also known as Glass Bread, is your answer!
This bread from the Catalonia region of Spain has been surging in popularity due to its versatile usage, simple ingredients, and breathtaking open crumb. Even better, this bread can be made on the same day!
This sourdough Pan de Cristal is made with 100% hydration, which means that the amount of water in the dough is equal to that of flour. The result is a crispy crust and an airy crumb that’s similar to ciabatta. It’s a great exercise in pushing the limits of hydration with bread, without the hassle of complex shaping techniques or lots of hand mixing.
This recipe guide will explore everything you need to know about making Pan de Cristal at home, including many tips for success.
What is Pan de Cristal?
Pan de Cristal, or glass bread, is an extremely high-hydration bread originating from the Catalonia region in Spain. It’s often credited as being created in 2004 by Jordi Nomen in Barcelona and is known as Pa de Vidre in Catalan.
While similar to Italian ciabatta bread, Pan de Cristal is higher hydration at 100% or sometimes as high as 120% and has a crispier crust and airier crumb. At 100% hydration, the alveoli (holes from the gases) in the interior are extremely open and light.
When you eat the bread, you’ll notice how lightweight the bread is and how the airy interior melts in your mouth. Pan de Cristal is often served as tapas in Spain with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and salt, also known as Pan con Tomate or Pa amb Tomaquet. It’s also excellent used for sandwiches.
Baker’s Percentage Table
I include a baker’s percentage chart to quickly scale a recipe up or down. This Pan de Cristal recipe makes four large sandwiches or eight sandwiches if sliced in half.
With baker’s percentages, the total weight of all flour in the recipe is 100%. The other ingredients are noted in relation to the total weight of flour. This is why the percentages below will add up to over 100%.
If you want to learn more, the King Arthur website has a more detailed reference page on why and how baker’s percentages are calculated.
*Note: 40g of bread flour, 40g of water, and the 40g starter are for the levain.
If you do not want to build a levain, use about 120g of active sourdough starter instead.
⏰ Sample Schedule:
Below is my sample schedule for making this same-day Pan de Cristal that’s ready by dinner time! However, you’re always welcome to adjust the schedule based on your own needs. As always, fermentation times are dependent on the ambient temperature (warmer= proofs faster, colder=slower).
For example, you can make the levain the night before with a smaller percentage of sourdough starter and more flour and water (i.e. 20g of starter and 50g each of flour and water). That way, your levain is ready in the morning, and you can bake earlier.
Another alternative is to proof the dough in the refrigerator overnight after bulk fermentation. At the end of bulk fermentation, place the covered dough in the refrigerator for up to a day. Just be careful not to over proof the dough! Because of the cold refrigerator temperature, the dough may need longer in final proof.
|Day-Of Sample Schedule
|1. Make Levain (5hrs)
|2. Mix Dough
|3. Bulk Fermentation (4-5hrs)
|4. Divide, Shape, and Final Proof (2 hrs)
🛠 Tools Needed:
Click the links below for my tool recommendations.
- Baking Scale
- A baking scale is essential for sourdough baking and will instantly improve all of your baking! Weight measurements are more accurate and consistent than volume measurements.
- Mixing Bowl
- You only need one medium-sized mixing bowl for this recipe. I like the Vollrath mixing bowls linked above that come in many graduated sizes and have flat bottoms, making mixing easy.
- Dough Whisk (optional but helpful)
- Because of its high-hydration, a Danish dough whisk comes in handy for the initial mixing of this bread and is less messy than mixing by hand. Otherwise, the dough is extremely wet and sticky. A small silicone spatula would be my second choice.
- I typically mix my sourdough breads by hand or use a stand mixer for enriched breads. However, Pan de Cristal doesn’t get mixed in the traditional sense, as gluten strength is solely developed via time and folds during bulk fermentation.
- Bench Scraper
- Really high hydration doughs are hard to handle. That’s why using a bench scraper is so handy when making sourdough bread. In this recipe, I use the bench scraper to help shape the bread, divide it, and transfer the breads to their proofing pans.
- You can read more with my reviews of my favorite bench scrapers here.
- Brød and Taylor Folding Bread Proofer (optional but helpful)
- My home tends to stay cool, so I proof all of my breads in this convenient proofing box that can also act as a slow cooker.
- A note on how to bake these: You can make Pan de Cristal in any flat pan or vessel that can withstand temperatures up to 500ºF (260ºC). I prefer making it in my Challenger Bread Pan, which locks in the steam and has a flat base that’s large enough to bake two at a time. Using a baking steel or baking stone similarly works to retain as much heat as possible. However, you can easily bake these in a standard aluminum baking sheet or cookie sheet as well!
🛒 Ingredients Needed:
Click on the links below for my ingredient recommendations.
- Bread Flour
- Using a high-protein bread flour is critical for this recipe because it gives Pan de Cristal its distinctive texture.
- While all-purpose flour can typically be substituted 1:1 for bread flour in most recipes, it may not be strong enough to develop the gluten strength needed for this recipe. If you do use all-purpose flour, add a few extra folds during bulk fermentation. You also may want to consider lowering the hydration slightly.
- To hasten fermentation, I use warm water when mixing the dough. Warm water jumpstarts yeast activity, but be careful not to use hot water or you can kill your sourdough yeasts.
- Sourdough Starter
- Use active sourdough starter in this recipe at 100% hydration. Sourdough discard will not have the leavening power needed.
- No sourdough starter? Learn how to make one in a week with my day-by-day guide.
- Sea Salt
- Do not skip the salt in this recipe. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a loose sourdough starter instead of bread! The salt tightens the gluten structure and adds flavor to the bread.
- I like finely ground sea salt because it incorporates more easily into the dough, but Kosher salt also works fine.
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- Adding a hint of Mediterranean flavor, the olive oil not only prevents the dough from sticking to the bowl, but also results in a tender crumb for the Pan de Cristal.
- Other sourdough recipes I use with olive oil are my Seeded Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread and Spelt Sourdough Focaccia recipes.
🧑🍳 How to Make Sourdough Pan de Cristal (Glass Bread)
Follow this visual and detailed recipe guide as you bake this Pan de Cristal recipe.
1. Make the Levain
Mix 40g of sourdough starter, 40g of bread flour, and 40g of water in an empty jar.
If you’d prefer to skip making a levain, use about 120g of active sourdough starter instead.
Cover and set it in a warm location (75-80ºF) for about five hours until it is doubled and bubbly.
2. Mix the Dough
Once the levain doubles in size, add the following ingredients into a medium-sized mixing bowl.
- 400g of bread flour
- 400g of warm water
- 8g of sea salt
- All of the levain (or 120g of sourdough starter)
This dough is extremely sticky and wet. Ideally, use a dough whisk to mix the dough, but you can use a silicone spatula as well.
Mix until the dough is completely hydrated, but that’s it! The mixing here is similar to the autolyse step when making sourdough bread. There’s no need to mix any more because the dough will gain most of its strength via folds during bulk fermentation.
3. Bulk Fermentation
Then, transfer the dough to the bowl, cover it, and place it in a warm location (75-80ºF) to proof in bulk fermentation for about 4 to 5 hours total.
During bulk fermentation, perform a mixed series of stretch & folds and coil folds on the dough. There are two stretch and folds at the beginning of mixing, separated by 15 minutes each, and three coil folds separated by 30 minutes apart. The dough rests for the remainder of the time. The folds will continue strengthening the dough and give you a hands-on sense of how fast your dough is fermenting.
Tip: When making folds for this dough, keeping a small container of water beside your bowl is helpful to wet your hands as you’re folding.
Stretch & Folds
After 15 minutes, drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil (13 grams) on top of the dough.
Use wet hands to perform the first series of stretch and folds in the dough. Use one hand to scoop the dough, pull it up, and fold it over onto itself. Rotate the bowl and continue folding about six to eight times in total.
During this first series of stretch and folds, the dough will barely hold together. It will feel like wet batter, but trust me! It will come together after more time.
Cover the dough and rest for another 15 minutes. Repeat with more stretch and folds again and now rest for 30 minutes.
After the 30 minute rest, perform your first of three coil folds.
Wet both hands and gently lift and stretch the middle of the dough and fold it once onto itself. Rotate the bowl and repeat the motion four times in all directions until the dough rests as a package in the middle of the bowl. Repeat the series of coil folds twice more, separated by 30 minutes in between.
During the last coil fold, the dough should hold itself nicely as a package in the bowl, resembling a round ball of dough. The dough shouldn’t stretch as much, and you should feel how much stronger the dough is than it was during the first stretch and fold. If the dough is still very slack, you may need to add another series or two of coil folds.
Cover the bowl and rest for the remainder of bulk fermentation.
At the end of bulk fermentation, the dough will at least double in size and be full of air. There will be many visible gas bubbles on the surface of the dough and it will be domed shape.
Because of this dough’s high hydration, it will proof faster than other recipes. Check the dough throughout and note that it will take longer to proof if it’s in a cooler location.
At this point, you can refrigerate the dough overnight. However, it does have a chance of over proofing because it proofs so quickly, so I highly recommend making these on the same day.
4. Shape & Divide
Tip: Before preparing your proofing pans and dividing the dough, think about how you’ll be baking the breads as the processes are slightly different depending on if you’re baking in the Challenger Pan, a baking steel/stone, or in a sheet pan.
For the best results, I bake the Pan de Cristal in my Challenger Pan, which bakes two breads at a time. Because of this, I prefer to proof them in parchment-lined quarter sheet pans, which can easily be transferred to the base of the Challenger Pan. Additionally, you can bake them with a baking steel or baking stone and transfer the breads from a prepared cookie sheet or half sheet pan.
Finally, you can easily bake these in regular half-sheet pans with great success, which I also recipe tested. Simply prepare a half-sheet pan with parchment paper, proof, and bake the loaves in the same pan.
Depending on what you’re using to bake the Pan de Cristal, prepare the pans with parchment paper and set aside.
Generously flour your work surface, hands, and bench scraper. Dump the dough out onto the floured surface (it should release easily, but use floured hands to assist it out if it doesn’t).
Flour the surface of the dough and use floured hands to shape the dough gently. To shape, gently pull the corners of the dough into a square shape. Then, lift one side of the dough and fold it to the center. Fold the opposite side of the dough over the other fold to create a letter package in the shape of a long rectangle.
Use the bench scraper to divide the rectangle into four equal-sized pieces. The dough is very delicate and airy at this point, so try not to degas it too much and try to use single strokes to slice the dough instead of using too many sawing or cutting motions.
Separate the four pieces and place them on the pans with a few inches of space apart for final proofing.
5. Final Proof
Proof for about 2 hours in a warm location (78ºF or 26ºC). During the last 30 minutes of proofing, preheat the oven to 500ºF (260ºC). An explanation for the preheating is in the next step!
FYI there’s no need to cover these as they proof, or you risk flattening them, in which case you’ll get flat breads (which would also be good in my opinion).
The final proof is complete when the dough expands in size, has a few large visible bubbles on top, and feels full of air if you press it lightly with a floured finger. This is also known as the “finger poke test.”
Tips: The dough won’t rise as tall as it proofs because of the high hydration and because it’s not mixed as intensely as typical bread recipes. That’s not a problem, though! The bread will rise in the oven as it bakes into happy little sandwich breads.
If the dough spreads a lot during proofing to the point where the loaves are touching each other, you may have placed them too closely together or you may need to add more folds next time during bulk fermentation so they don’t spread so much.
For the best oven spring, we want the oven to be nice and hot when we first place the loaves into the oven. Hence, that requires fully preheating the oven while the loaves are proofing. If you’re using the Challenger Pan or a baking steel, place those in the oven to preheat as well.
Once the oven has preheated at 500ºF (260ºC) for at least 30 minutes, quickly and stealthily transfer the parchment with the loaves to your baking vessel or baking steel (if the breads scrunch up some, it’s okay!).
If using the Challenger pan, create steam by placing a couple of ice cubes into the pan and quickly covering it with the lid. The extra steam will contribute to a shinier, crispier crust, and more oven spring and is the same process I use to get a better sourdough ear.
You don’t need to transfer the loaves if you’re baking on baking sheets. Just stick the pans straight into the oven. While added steam is not necessary, it does help create a crispier crust. If you’re a fan of using lava rocks and towels at the bottom of your oven for steam, then by all means go for it! Otherwise, you can spritz the inside of your oven and top of the loaves with a mister and quickly shut the oven door.
Bake for 10 minutes at 500ºF (260ºC). Then, remove the lid if using the Challenger pan and lower the oven temperature to 425º (218ºC) and bake for about 20 minutes or until the tops of the loaves are dark brown.
Cool for at least 30 minutes on a wire rack before slicing in half and enjoying this extra delicious bread!
How to Store:
Like croissants, Pan de Cristal is best eaten within a couple of hours of when it’s made. Over time, the bread soaks in more moisture from the air and the crust loses its crispiness. Even so, you can wrap the bread, store it at room temperature for a few days, and reheat them slightly to crisp back up.
However, the bread can store longer if you slice and freeze it. Store slices in a freezer-safe bag in the freezer for up to a couple of months. Then, reheat for a few minutes in a toaster oven.
How to Serve:
You can serve this bread many ways! As mentioned above, Pan de Cristal is often served as tapas in Spain with simple Mediterranean ingredients like fresh tomato, garlic, and olive oil. Of course, you can slice the bread into smaller pieces to serve this way as appetizers or make-your-own starters at a picnic!
This recipe makes four large sandwiches or eight sandwiches if sliced in half.
It’s also excellent as a ciabatta substitute for your favorite lunch sandwiches. The bread has a crispy, crunchy crust and a melt-in-your-mouth interior that’s great for housing hearty deli meats and all of your favorite toppings.
I also enjoy simply eating it by itself as a snack! No butter, no salt, nothing. Just an awesome bread snack. That’s how you know it’s that good.
Sourdough Pan de Cristal FAQs:
Can I double this recipe?
Yes, you can easily double this whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread recipe. Simply double all of the ingredients and bake it in two bread loaf pans.
What’s the difference between Pan de Cristal and ciabatta?
While made with the same ingredients, there are some key differences between Pan de Cristal and ciabatta bread.
First of all, Pan de Cristal is a higher hydration bread ranging from 100%-120% hydration. Meanwhile, ciabatta bread typically has a hydration of 80% or higher.
The final product of Pan de Cristal has a crispier crust and a very holey and open interior. Ciabatta can also have these elements, but typically has a softer crust.
Lastly, Pan de Cristal was developed in Spain and ciabatta is an Italian bread. They’re essentially both the answer to French baguettes!
Can I use sourdough discard to make Pan de Cristal?
Use active sourdough starter in this recipe for the best results. Sourdough discard is too acidic and may not leaven the loaves properly.
View more sourdough discard recipes here.
Why is my dough not coming together?
You have to use a high-protein bread flour for this recipe. Otherwise, the dough will be too wet.
At first, the dough will be wet (almost soupy), but you must let the gluten work. As you perform the folds, the dough will come together.
This is an extremely high-hydration bread, so if you’re not comfortable with the percentage of water, you can lower it to 90% or lower.
Sourdough Pan de Cristal (Glass Bread)
- Mix the levain ingredients together in a jar. Cover and set in a warm location (75-80ºF) for about five hours until doubled and bubbly.40 grams Water, 40 grams Sourdough Starter, 40 grams Bread Flour
- When the levain is ready, mix the bread flour, warm water, salt, and levain into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Use a dough whisk to mix the very wet dough until all of the flour is hydrated.400 grams Bread Flour, 400 grams Warm Water, 8 grams Sea Salt, Levain
- Cover the bowl and transfer it to a warm location (75-80ºF) to proof in bulk fermentation for 4-5 hours. After 15 minutes, drizzle 1 TBS of olive oil on top of the dough. Perform a series of multiple stretch & folds* using wet hands. The first set will be extremely loose and sticky, which is normal. Rest for another 15 minutes and repeat.Rest for 30 minutes and perform a series of four coil folds in all directions. Repeat this twice more with a 30-minute rest in between. Rest for the remaider of bulk fermentation.At the end of bulk fermentation, the dough will at least double in size, be full of bubbles, and feel full of air.13 grams Olive Oil
- Prepare a half-sheet pan with parchment paper and set it near your work surface.**Generously flour a work surface, hands, and bench scraper. Dump the dough out onto the work surface, gently pull into a square shape, and lift one side of the dough up and fold it to the center. Fold the opposite side up and over the other fold to create a rectangle letter package.Use the bench scraper to divide the dough into four equal-sized pieces and gently separate them with your hands. Transfer the breads to your prepared baking sheet with plenty of space in between each bread.
- Proof the Pan de Cristal uncovered in a warm location for about 2 hours until they expand slightly and there are visible bubbles on the surfaces. To check if the breads are proofed, use a floured finger to poke the bread. The breads should leave a slight indentation that fills in back slowly. If the dough springs back immediately, proof them longer.
- Preheat the oven to 500ºF (260ºC) for at least 30 minutes so the oven is fully preheated before baking.Once proofed, transfer the sheet pan to the oven and bake for 10 minutes at 500ºF. Then, lower the temperature to 425ºF (218ºC) and bake for another 20 minutes or until the crusts are dark brown.Cool for 30 minutes before slicing.