Musical pairing – A Sort of Fairy Tale by Tori Amos

I am absolutely thrilled to have Avery join us as a regular contributor here at Smith Bites; in fact, we’ve created a new category called ‘Bloomington Bites’ because she’s going to be blogging about college life, what she’s studying, plays, concerts and museum exhibits she visits and of course, what she finds to eat in and around Indiana University in Bloomington. Sweet Claire’s Bakery is her first full post and I have to say, I want to head to Bloomington this weekend to try Pandesal, a Filipino bread that get its distinguishing marks by rolling the dough in fine breadcrumbs and shaped like garrison caps. Welcome to the team Avery!

Sometimes, winter in college can hit you from every angle at once. Between the ice and snow that recently wrapped the entire campus in a treacherous—if beautiful—cocoon, and the apparent conspiracy between my professors to assign particularly massive amounts of reading all to be done this week, I felt as if I were stepping onto land again after a stormy week at sea as I emerged from my dorm this morning.

It wasn’t merely the triumphant fact that it was Friday that instantly awoke a sense of freedom and giddiness in my heart: the morning was sunny, ice dripping rapidly into water all about me and, what was more, I was headed to a bakery. After a dark week of existing primarily on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and instant coffee, something fresh-baked and fresh-brewed sounded deliriously tantalizing. So, taking with me one of my constant companions (Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto) as well as a more human friend, I set off for Sweet Claire’s Bakery.

Cozily tucked in a well-kempt old house—as most of the restaurants in Bloomington are—Sweet Claire’s is notable for its dramatic purple and black walls and the dark wood of its trim, the oriental tea pots that line elegant shelves in each room, and the generous yellow sunlight that pours so irresistibly in through the windows—a definite asset in the dim wintry days. But most eye-catching of all are the baked goods themselves: plump brioche buns crowned with creamy streusel and blueberries, buttery croissant twists studded with chocolate chips, cinnamon rolls with hot icing freshly drizzled over them upon being ordered.

In Bloomington, though, which offers a shockingly diverse array of restaurants specializing in food from every corner of the world, it should come as no surprise that there’s a slightly more unusual treasure to be found at Claire’s. A pile of Pandesal, or Filipino breakfast rolls, occupy a capacious basket by the cash register. They aren’t showy. In fact, they look decidedly humble. Nonetheless, I knew I had to try one and, as I broke open the yeasty roll, its slightly crisp crust giving way to reveal a moist and chewy interior, I was hugely glad I’d allowed myself to be seduced by the unassuming little roll. Perfect with a bit of butter and honey, the not-quite-salty, not-quite sweet bread took me worlds away from ice-bound Indiana, placing me instead on a steamy canal in the Philippines, with just enough time to eat my morning pandesal and read the last twenty pages of my book before I caught an obliging river boat back to Ballantine Hall, room 205, to discuss Renaissance Literature.


SMITH BITES NOTE: This recipe uses a breadmaker and the dough is then rolled into balls; feel free to mix and knead by hand if you wish.

You might also like:

How To Make Pan de Sal at Home: Jun-Blog (There is an excellent step-by-step tutorial for making these beautiful rolls by hand)


  1. I just found this delicious post about Pan de Sal, my favorite bun! Thanks for sharing an easy recipe. I make this often for the family and it always brings back memories of growing up. I love the story that comes with it by Tori ~ she captured it so well. Happy weekend, folks and thanks for sharing the Pan de Sal-love 🙂

  2. So glad to see you are featuring restaurants in my hometown! I need to get back there and visit this bakery ASAP. It’s only 80 miles from where I live now.
    My parents still live in Bloomington, so I will be sure to share your suggestions with her too!

  3. Sweet Claire’s is a great place and only about 5 minutes from our house.

    Sadly, you only went to one of those places last week 😉

  4. Oh how I wish we had a Sweet Claire’s around here! No such luck. What a spread.
    Fabulous looking bread too.

  5. I’m always excited about bread recipes…and I’m so glad that Avery is sharing with us too! I’m sure she has learned so much from mom and dad, and I know she brings a unique perspective of her very own. Thank you for sharing with me tonight. I’m craving a yeasty treat now!

  6. Great post from Avery-looking forward to more! Love the bread recipe, as well.

  7. Welcome Avery! Love this post!

  8. Wow do those look lovely! And evaporated milk? Who Knew?!

  9. Welcome Avery – I enjoy your writing Avery, you have a wonderful ability of making me feel like I was there with you experiencing Sweet Claire’s for the 1st time. You have me craving Pandesal but also brioche, I have yet to find a bakery in our city that makes them. All the best!

  10. Reading your words Avery brings me back to my college days. I have very fond memories of that time of my life. Wish I had the skills in the kitchen that I do now 🙂 Great looking rolls…

  11. What a lovely post from Avery! Welcome to the fabulous team, Avery! Those baked goods look delicious. Hope you both have a great weekend!:)

  12. Those look like some tasty rolls.

  13. Ooo, sounds nice. I’ve never heard of Pandesal before, it sounds really interesting and I’ve never made bread with evaporated milk before!

  14. That was quite an enjoyable trip I just took down the streets of a town I have never visited before. Welcome, Avery! Your writing is beautiful.
    The unassuming, humble-looking rolls are sometimes the best. Even though I have never heard of this bread, it looks very inviting, and I love to work with yeast.
    You have reminded me of many times I sat in a cafe in Belgrade, “Orlando Furioso” resting on the table next to my Icecafe, waiting patiently for me to read:)

  15. Welcome, Avery! And what a great start – I must confess I am biased – when I visit the Philippines, my favorite simple breakfast is a perfect, still warm pan de sal, with slices of kesong puti, a silky white cheese. I’m glad you are able to find pan de sal in your neck of the woods!

  16. How much fun to have Avery on board! I can’t wait to read all of her posts!

  17. Sweet Claire’s looks like such a fabulous place! Welcome, Avery!

  18. Growth with NO pain. Welcome Avery!

  19. These look so great! I had some great Filipino friends when I went to culinary school in SF, and they taught me the joys of Pandesal. I had all but forgotten about how good they were till I saw this post- thanks!!!

  20. So happy to see Avery! Can’t wait to read all about her scrumptious findings!

  21. What great rolls you have said…. ok… its late. I still need to purchase a bread maker, maybe this will finally be the impetus I need.

  22. I love a good humble yeasty roll too! Your description had my mouth watering Avery! Feels like I was right there with you. Bravo on an excellent post!

  23. My mouth is watering!! yummmy. nice post Ave 🙂

  24. Hello Avery! What a beautifully written post and a simple, elegant recipe to accompany it. Those rolls would brighten the coldest winter day.

  25. That looks so perfect and would be great with this cup of coffee I’m having!

  26. What a lovely post! And, the pan de sal looks incredible!

  27. Thank you for sharing these… we’d love to have you feature some of your dishes at kitchenartistry.com

  28. Pingback: Tweets that mention BLOOMINGTON BITES – PAN de SAL AT SWEET CLAIRE’S -- Topsy.com

  29. Beautiful and well-written post – I definitely see a budding food writer! I’ll take two of those brioche buns.

  30. I felt like I was there–wish I could have one of those rolls right now!

  31. Hi Avery! Great job on your post – I think you’ve found a perfect place to study! Looks like some of your surroundings are similar to ours (we have 2 large sugar gum trees in our backyard!).

  32. Sounds like a great recipe! Now all I need is a bread machine. :-/

  33. I adore that Avery is now part of the SmithBites team! Yay!!

  34. Beautiful post! I would love to spend a peaceful afternoon at Claire’s with a cup of tea and a few of these rolls. And the fact that they can be made in the bread machine? Perfect.

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