Homemade Pan Rustico (Rustic Spanish Bread)

Sliced white bread with a very soft crumbSoft, fluffy, light and extra tasty. Pan rustico - or 'rustic Spanish bread' - has been described as 'half way to sourdough'. This is due to the slightly convoluted method involved and the resulting flavour. It's so worth it!

Here I explain what makes this bread so special and, most importantly, how you can make some for yourself.

My pan rustico adventure began, as bread adventures sometimes do, with Dave. Here's a nice wave from Dave on Instagram.

It was Dave who encouraged and instructed me with Bernard and it was Dave who sent me his pan rustico recipe to try. Since my daughter wasn't keen on the sourdough I was making, pan rustico might be the next best thing: flavoursome but not too flavoursome, and definitely not sour.

The recipe that Dave sent me was adapted from the Hairy Bikers' recipe. Here's the link to the Hairy Bikers' recipe on the BBC website. Do check out Dave's Instagram account for pictures of his beautiful bread: sourdough, rustic and otherwise.

A knife in a blur as it cuts into a round loaf

My son Could Not Wait to cut into this bread, still quite hot from the oven. It smelled so good!

Overnight sponge

This pan rustico recipe calls for an overnight sponge. More on that in a moment. Not all pan rustico recipes start with a sponge. Some of them look just like ordinary white bread, to me, but the Hairy Bikers/Dave-style recipe requires an overnight sponge, which is what gives the bread its extra tasty - um - taste.

An overnight sponge is a mixture of yeast, water and flour which is left for several hours (or overnight) to start the fermentation process. This is quite common in sourdough preparation but this recipe uses instant yeast. The lengthy fermentation process develops more flavour than you would normally get from rapid-acting instant yeast.

So, this was the night 'before'. Flour, water, yeast and sugar*, making an advanced start on the fermentation process.
*I'm not sure if sugar is really necessary. I'm quite anti-sugar at the moment so when I next try this recipe, I'm going to miss it out. On this occasion, it being my first attempt, I thought it wise to stick to the instructions.

A mixture of yeast and water

By the following morning we had this:

Bubbling sponge

The sponge was full of bubbles and it smelled delicious: fruity, yeasty and slightly alcoholic. It was begging me to bake with it but I had to hurry off to my COVID vaccine appointment so I ended up leaving the sponge for several more hours after this picture was taken.

Making the dough

The next stage is to make the dough by adding the rest of the flour, more water, more yeast, more sugar* and salt. Ooh, there was also some oil and vinegar in there, too.
*Again, I'm pretty sure that sugar is not necessary in bread but I was playing by the recipe rules this time.

Dave uses white flour for the sponge and a mixture of white and wholemeal flour for the dough, so that's what I did too. In future, I'll be interested to try this technique again using entirely wholemeal flour, since that's my preferred type of bread. It might not be quite so fluffy and delicious as this was, though(!)

I mixed up the dough and it was very wet. After kneading for about ten minutes, it began to feel more under control, though it was still wanting to spread out and run away rather than sit nicely under its bowl.

A wet looking piece of dough

It was supposed to ferment for an hour or so, until doubled in size. At one point, I couldn't resist giving it a bit of a plumping up*, to see if I could encourage it to hold its shape better.
*Not a technical term: just an action that reminded me of plumping up a pillow.

A slightly better shaped lump of dough

This picture was taken when the hour was almost up and the dough was inflating nicely. It still smelled great and it was feeling light and spongy.


After the bulk fermentation stage, when the dough has doubled in size, comes the shaping. Dave suggested flattening the dough into a square and folding the corners into the middle, twice. My dough was so wet that this proved a little tricky and I ended up rolling the dough up, several times, in an attempt to tame it into some sort of round shape.

Then Dave said to place it in a tin. I didn't think any of my tins were large enough (and I definitely didn't have a suitable round tin) so I decided to deviate from the instructions and deposit my unruly dough into a proving bowl. (My 'proving bowl' is a round plastic bowl lined with a tea-towel. It works fine!)


The pan rustico is to be baked at a high temperature for 10 minutes and then slightly lower for a further 20.

I pre-heated my Le Creuset casserole dish* and gingerly transferred the dough from the proving bowl onto a piece of baking paper.
*Something like this (affiliate link).

A lovely round shaped loaf ready to bake

It felt quite fragile, like a big ball of air that might deflate. I made a slash across the top, with a sharp craft knife and lowered it into the hot casserole dish.

I baked it for the first ten minutes with the lid on (for the best crust) and the remaining time with the lid off. After the full cooking time had elapsed, as per the recipe, the bread still looked pale (probably because the recipe hadn't expected me to have had a lid over the bread!) so I cooked it for a further ten minutes, until it looked more golden.

A really well risen round loaf

It had risen really well! It had inflated to almost fill the casserole dish!

It was smelling gorgeous and no one could wait to tuck in.

Top view of the pan rustico

The recipe said 'wait 45 minutes' but...

Side view of a nice plump loaf

Dave, we did not wait.

Fluffy white bread

Slices of bread looking soft and delicious

Freshly cut white bread

This was such a treat for my children who are usually subject to my healthy regime of robust, brown food!

Here we have a loaf that is soft, fluffy and springy. It wasn't just soft, white bread, however. There was more to it than that. It had real flavour, as developed in the overnight sponge. It wasn't sour, though. Even my daughter with the sensitive taste buds liked it.

The crust was crisp but not hard: almost flaky, perhaps due to the oil in the dough? It was a lovely contrast with the soft crumb but not at all challenging to the teeth.

The recipe

I feel a bit of a fraud to share the recipe here since I got it from Dave who got it from the Hairy Bikers. I shall list the ingredients and you can click through to the BBC website (link near the top of the article) for the full details of the method. This one won't be in my recipe book as it isn't truly mine.

Starter sponge:

150ml water
1 tsp sugar
7g yeast
125g flour


200ml water
1tsp sugar
7g yeast
300g white flour
100g wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp white or cider vinegar

Let me know

Are you going to try it? Did you try it?

I'd love to hear about your experience of the pan rustico.

Let me know if you have a favourite bread recipe to recommend. I've enjoyed trying the pan rustico and I can't wait to try the overnight sponge process again without the sugar and with entirely wholemeal flour. (Done: here.) No doubt my children will consider it 'ruined' but it's worth at least making the attempt!


  1. Ah Rachel, I have just read this post and thoroughly enjoyed it! I'm glad that you shared your Pan Rustico experience, so that others may be tempted to try it. I have to alternate bakes now between sourdough and pan rustico (Christine's instruction). They are both similar in preparation, so once familiar with one recipe, the other is easily adapted. If caught out by circumstances, like coming home from holiday etc, and there being no bread available, I revert to my normal express bread recipe, ready in approx two hours. The point of that, is anyone who may be daunted by a long process should not be deterred from baking bread, as you can get wonderful results from many different recipes and there is a storehouse of recipes to try and the internet is a rich source of inspiration, as you are yourself Rachel. Keep up the good work and this excellent blog, I thoroughly enjoy reading it. Thank you for your reference and credits. Dave.

    1. Thank you so much, Dave. I'm glad you approve :o) One thing I love about having this website is the sharing of ideas and inspiration. What you said about there being many ways to make delicious bread - from simple and speedy, to elaborate and long - is so true. I started this website for precisely that reason: to help anybody/everyone to make their own bread in a way that works for them. Yummy!

  2. This reminds me of the old Tassajara Bread Book recipe (my hippy 60’s first cooking book at college!). It was th only way to get well risen wholemeal bread by giving the yeast time to expand without the heavy lifting of ALL the flour.

    1. That IS interesting! I'm definitely planning to give this a go.

  3. Thanks Rachel 🙂 I’m definitely going to give this a go

    1. Great! I'm experimenting with a wholemeal version now!


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