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A popular style of bread in South America is called marraqueta, which is a version of the French bread known as sous brot that hails from the French region of Alsace. Tough and crispy on the outside but soft and airy inside, this bread also is known as pan Frances, French bread, or pan batido, kneaded bread. It is a simple blend of flour, salt, sugar, water, yeast and some oil, though learning to make the distinctive-looking quartered sections correctly will take precision and maybe some practice.
Marraqueta is a bread widely consumed in the country of Chile. It is eaten with meals, slathered in butter, or dipped in the condiment known as pebre, which is spiced with ingredients like jalapeno and cilantro. This bread can also be found in other South American countries — from Argentina and Peru to Uruguay and Bolivia. A time-worn expression has even evolved around the bread. According to the Cachando Chile Web site, when somebody says, "Nacio con la marraqueta bajo el brazo," meaning "born with a hard roll under the arm," it means they have had a good life, similar to saying they were "born with a silver spoon in their hand."
The process of making this bread is not difficult, but it does demand precise measurements and procedures. For eight rolls, one common recipe uses a mixture of 4 cups (about 500 g) of flour, 1 tsp. (about 5 g) of sugar, 1 tsp. (about 5 g) of salt, 1 tbsp. (about 15 ml) of oil, 1.25 cup (about 325 ml) of water and 1 tbsp. (about 15 g) of yeast. Before the dough can start taking shape, using this recipe, the yeast and sugar should be mixed with 0.25 cup (about 60 ml) of the water and set aside to ferment for at least five minutes.
The flour, oil, salt, yeast mixture, and remainder of the water is then slowly combined in the bowl, using a mixer set to a low speed. Without a mixer, cooks must knead these ingredients together on a clean surface sprinkled with extra flour. After the dough ball has rested and risen for an hour or more, it should be pressed flat and divided into 16 portions, for eight final four-sectioned pieces of marraqueta.
The final preparations for marraqueta take place on greased baking sheets. Pressing two small dough balls side-by-side, the pairs are flattened to create long flat loafs, which are set aside for another half-hour to keep rising. With an oven heating to 400°F (about 204°C), each roll is cut across the center of the two dough balls, creating four even sections, which then bake for at least 15 minutes.
Though French bread is similar to marraqueta, two major distinctions can be made. One is that French bread has egg in the dough. The other difference is that marraqueta is sectioned into quarters for easy divvying.
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