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Pan de Siete Cielos

qazwart's picture

Pan de Siete Cielos

I have this recipe for pan de siete cielos (bread of the seven heavens), but the recipe doesn't seem to make sense to me. I'm suppose to mix 7 to 8 cups of flour into 1/3 cup of water, then after it has risen, add in the eggs, milk, and other ingredients. 

The basic recipe is here:



Adapted from “Cookbook of the Jews of Greece” by Nicholas Starvroulakis


  • 7-8 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 oz. fresh yeast
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. anise extract or Arak
  • ½ cup milk


  • Dissolve ½ teaspoon of sugar in the warm water.
  • Mix in the yeast, and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Add the flour and mix well.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean towel and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes.
  • Beat the eggs with the sugar and anise extract.
  • Pour them into the dough.
  • Add the butter and milk.
  • Knead the dough.
  • Cover the bowl with a towel, and allow the dough to rise until it doubles in size.

As you can see from the picture, it's a fairly flat bread. I have problems combining that much flour with the water. I also have problems with having to mix in all the other ingredients after the dough has risen. It seems that it breaks up the structure. Why bother to let it rise?

Any suggestions?

prettedda's picture

No insights on ratios but not unusual to autolyse - let dough rest before kneading. Generally you just get the dough to come together then wait. Some enzymatic action happens and the gluten absorbs water. You knead after the other additions so that is where you develop structure. If I were doing this I would knead tbefore adding butter to develop gluten. Then once had nice smooth dough knead in butter.

Enriched bread ratios are complicated so I can't comment on amount of water. 

Colin2's picture

Yes, 7-8 cups flour to 1/3 cup of water will be somewhere around ten percent hydration, which will not come together.  You could start with the water, eggs, and milk plus flour.  In any case this is basically a very sweet challah that's formed flat so you can make images.  I'd look at challah recipes for guidance.

qazwart's picture

I tried following the recipe, but I had to add a bit more water to make it somewhat like a dough. Then adding in the milk and other ingredients broke up the texture. It seemed silly to let it rise, then mush it back up into a soupy mess and till it could form a dough once more. Just doesn’t make sense. 

I bake challah, and it’s not challah like. Way more eggs and sugar than even the eggiest egg challah. Besides that, kosher bread almost never has any dairy in it. Kashrut rules generally prohibit dairy in bread because it might accidentally get eaten with meat. 

The exception would be breads you expect to be dairy. English muffins and croissants would qualify. Challah would not. This bread is a special bread made on Shavuot – a holiday where one eats dairy rather than meat. As you can see, the Classic way is to make the bread very flat with various signs to signal it’s Shavuot significance. (Shavuot is the holiday where the Jews receive the Ten Commandments.) You’re not going to mix that up with a sandwich roll. 

My previous attempts have been pretty good. Heck, it’s rich enough that it’s almost guaranteed to be tasty. However, due to the extra liquid I add in order to bake the dough, it rises a lot more. It looks much more like regular bread. Too much for comfort even with the various symbols all over it. Does make great French toast though. 

Next year, I’m going to add all the liquids together and then add in the flour, let it rest, knead in the butter and let it rise. It should be a much drier dough in the end, but at least it’ll be dough and not slightly moist flour. The drier dough should prevent it from rising too much and allow a flatter bread. 

I just thought it was a strange recipe. I googled and found the same recipe all over, but they all come from the same source. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and only uses enough flour to make a soft soft dough which is then covered for 30 minutes to let the fresh yeast hydrate, it doesn't have to be a dough and can be more like a thick batter.  Add the liquids mixing well.  Add the rest of the flour when it instructs to "knead the dough" saving some of the flour as bench flour for kneading.  That 7-8 cups translates into... add 7 and save a cup for bench flour if needed while kneading.  

Often in these old recipes most of the flour was made into a pile on the table.  Then a hole was made in the middle about the size of a custard or dessert bowl.  The softened yeast and one-third cup water would be added into the middle and only a little bit of the surrounding flour would be stirred into it.  A pause is made to proof the yeast.  As the liquids would increase, adding them into the middle, so would the surrounding flour be incorporated.  This gives all the ingredients a chance to even out in temperature while waiting for various steps along the way to dough formation. Often butter is cut and scattered in the wreath of flour on the outside edges but I see it has been melted instead.  When done kneading, dough can be transferd to a bowl or bowl can cover the dough.  Whatever is most convenient.  Often flour is left around the edges that wasn't kneaded into the dough if the dough reached the right consistency before all the flour was incorporated.  You will have to decide when to push the excess flour out of your way and to the side while kneading.

qazwart's picture

Often in these old recipes most of the flour was made into a pile on the table.  Then a hole was made in the middle about the size of a custard or dessert bowl.  The softened yeast and one-third cup water would be added into the middle and only a little bit of the surrounding flour would be stirred into it.

That makes sense. I could see adding the water in the middle, mixing enough flour into it, letting it sit and rise. Then adding the rest of the liquid ingredients. 

With modern yeasts, I don’t think this is necessary, but it does make a lot more sense. 


mwilson's picture

Mini is spot on!

See hear in Spanish:

It states the pre-ferment is made with 3 cups of the total flour. Problem solved!

PS. The water quantity is a little more at half a cup. 

qazwart's picture

That explains everything!

Thanks. I can't wait till next year to try it!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Why wait? Is this a seasonal bread?  A special holiday?

qazwart's picture

Why wait? Is this a seasonal bread?  A special holiday?

Yes. It’s a seasonal bread. I keep kosher and my oven is usually meat. I kasher my oven for dairy for Shavuot, so I can bake cheesecake, borekas, key like pie, and now this bread. Once Shavuot is over, I rekasher my oven again for meat/non-dairy. 

Having a dairy bread in the house is a bit dangerous because we may forget and use it for a meat meal. Jewish kosher law doesn’t allow for meat or dairy bread unless there’s a sign. For example, croissants and English muffins can be dairy because I expect them to be dairy. This bread is made flat with various symbols all over it to show it’s a dairy bread and don’t make a roast beef sandwich with it. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

not for me but you could dangerously spoil someone.

clazar123's picture

A hybrid dough. By ingredient alone, it looks almost like a pate a choux-where eggs provide the structure. By technique, this is a lean challah (Sally Lunn) or even a lean,sweet brioche recipe. Gluten free baked goods often use only eggs for structure and some leavening to provide bubble formation and expansion to lighten the crumb.

The first "rise" really seems to be a rest phase and yeast development phase. Probably for flavor, hydrating the flour and increasing the yeast population. Standard yeast has a bit of a problem with high sugar environments and generally more yeast is called for in the recipe in order to get a good rise, when all is said and done. I have not worked with fresh yeast but I think this amount of fresh yeast may be slightly more than a recipe using no sugar. Others can jump in on that. Beating or kneading after this initial 30 minute rest is good for gluten development. This bread uses the gluten and the eggs for structure but it is an uphill battle with that sugar level. I bet it is delicious, though!

qazwart's picture

Okay. Three years later, and This is the recipe. It works well, but I think I’ll make the symbols with a sugar cookie dough, bake them separately, and then add them to the dough. My arts and craft skills aren’t great and trying to shape figures in very sweet and stretchy dough is tough. My “dove” looks more like a chicken. 

The yeast definitely struggles with rising. Normally, I use a ten minute sponge rise, a thirty minute first rise, and a thirty minute final rise. The sponge rise took thirty minutes. The second rise took two hours, and the final rise was bit over an hour. 

Bread of the Seven Heavens

  • 1 teaspoon, plus 1 ½ cup of sugar 
  • ½ cup of warm water 
  • 1 tablespoon of yeast 
  • 7 to 8 cups of bread flour 
  • 5 tablespoons of sesame oil 
  • ½ cup whole milk 
  • 4 large beaten eggs 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon aniseed liqueur 
  • ¼ cup raisins 
  • 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon of cold water 


  1. Dissolve the spoonful of sugar in warm water. Pour the yeast and leave to sponge in a dry place for 10 minutes.
  2. Put 3 cups of flour in a bowl and make a hole in the center. 
  3. Add the yeast mixture and join well. There will be a light dough, thicker than a pancake, but not so much as to work by hand. Cover the bowl with plasticized paper and let stand in a dry place for 45 minutes. The mixture will sponge and rise. 
  4. After 45 minutes, add 4 tablespoons of oil, milk, beaten eggs, 1 ½ cups of sugar, salt and anise liqueur. Knead with the remaining flour until you reach a soft consistency, but not sticky. You will use more or less flour according to the quality of it and the humidity of the day. You will learn with practice the correct consistency. 
  5. Once you have the dough, you incorporate the raisins, knead well and make a ball. 
  6. Pour in a bowl the remaining spoonful of oil and put more in it. Turn until the dough is covered with oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough rise to double its volume (about 1 ½-2 hours). The dough prepared by the foaming method takes less time than that prepared by the mixing and kneading system. 
  7. Remove a quarter of the dough. Divide the rest into two parts and set aside one of them. Cover this and the other quarter of the dough with a damp cloth. 
  8. Divide the dough that you will work in three pieces and roll each of them until reaching 50 cm in length. 
  9. Join the ends at the top and braid. 
  10. Make a spiral with the braid and place it in the center of a non-stick oven tray. This is the mountain that represents Mount Sinai. Cover the bush with a damp cloth. 
  11. Divide the second largest piece of dough into seven pieces of different sizes. They will be the seven heavens that will roll around the mountain. As they are rolled up, the size will have to be larger. Roll the smaller piece as if it were a rope, around the mount. See figures. Repeat the same with the remaining dough pieces. Once finished cover with a damp cloth. 
  12. The remaining piece of dough will be used to make the different symbols that will be placed on the seven heavens. Divide the dough into five equal parts. Take one of the pieces and work it, while the others are covered with a damp cloth. 
  13. With the first piece, we will make the luchot habrit (the two tables on which the Ten Commandments were written). Divide in half, give each half an oval shape and place on the seven heavens. 
  14. Shape one hand with the second piece of dough. Within the Sephardic folk tradition, the hand symbolizes good luck. It contains the number five, the five books of Moses. Place your hand on <the seven heavens>. 
  15. Mold a fish with the third piece. The fish also symbolizes good luck because, unlike other animals, they were not exterminated by God during the Universal Flood. The fish also symbolizes the Messiah and the messianic era of peace on earth. Place the fish on the seven heavens. 
  16. The fourth piece will be molded into a bird shape. The birds, for the Sephardic Jews, are the symbol of peace. It was a dove that, with an olive branch in its beak, communicated to Noah the end of the Flood and the time of peace that would reign over the earth. The birds are also the symbol of the ascension of the soul to the seven heavens. Place the bird on the seven heavens. 
  17. The last piece of dough will be used to make Jacob's ladder, which symbolizes the relationship between the earth and the seven heavens and, in its end, with God. It represents the story told in the Genesis book about Jacob's dream and the angels going up and down the ladder between heaven and earth. To make the ladder, divide the dough into three parts Roll two of them to make the sides of the ladder. 
  18. With the remaining piece, mold five steps and place them between the sides of the stairs. 
  19. Cover the bread with a damp cloth and let rise until it reaches twice its volume (1 hour). 
  20. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. 
  21. Paint the bread with the beaten egg and bake for 45 minutes. The bread will acquire a nice golden color. To check that it is done, lift it a little from the tray and tap the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it is done. Cool on a grid.