May 27, 2012

The Sweet Bread of Mexico

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Written by: Nydia O
Pan Dulce

“Pan Dulce” is the name we give those very unusually shaped pieces of bread we see at local “Panaderias” (bakeries) usually bearing someone’s Hispanic name or surname. Some believe the bread is not really that sweet, and compared to glazed donuts or pineapple strudels, they might be right.

Mexican sweet bread has a long history and tradition. Whole grains were harvested during the colonial period, but bread was strictly consumed by the upper classes; the wealthy and not the poor whose everyday meals consisted of corn tortillas filled with beans or peppers.

It was not until the time when the French ruled Mexico between 1862-1867, that the French’s influence began to inspire and strengthen the production of “Pan Dulce”. One of the best examples is the croissant known in Spanish as “cuernito” loosely translated it means a small horn.

During the Viceroyalty there were several colonies that produced this delicious bread such as Puebla de los Angeles and Morelia Michoacan. Thanks to the evangelizing work of Tata Vasco, a name the Indians gave to Vasco de Quiroga, who taught various trades to the Indians, among them the baking of bread. Religious Convents were also the place where most of the varieties were first elaborated.

During cold winter afternoons, it is not uncommon to see a bakery filled with shoppers who will enjoy this delicious bread with a cup of hot cocoa or coffee during what is known as “merienda”; a meal between lunch and dinner people enjoy in most Latin American countries. Keep in mind that dinner in these countries is not served until past 9:00 pm and lunch time is around 2:00 pm leaving time for a great “merienda,” or coffee break, right at about 5:00  in the afternoon.

This tradition, and the delight of savoring a good Pan Dulce by many people, has motivated the local supermarkets to bake and sell it to their customers bypassing the traditional, family owned, small local bakeries. Personally, I prefer buying it from local family owned bakeries, and I hope others consider doing the same.

Here in the Rio Grande Valley we have numerous “Panaderias” and often, during business meetings, we have the opportunity of sweetening our days with a “concha” or a “cochinito”, an “oreja” “chilindrinas” or a delicious “mollete”.

How do you enjoy “Pan Dulce”?  Which local “Panaderia” do you recommend?

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About the Author

Nydia O
A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.-Maya Angelou. La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" my life in the Rio Grande Valley. From this bi-cultural corner on the tip of Texas, I share my poems and spiritual and travel experiences. I also blog about the arts, nature and my passion for historic preservation and architecture. But most importantly, let's talk about "la vida" - living our lives - in a vacation state of mind. Contributions and comments are always welcome .


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One Comment

  1. Elena Meade

    Lara’s Bakery in Harlingen is the best! Always packed in the mornings, their bread is consistently delicious & fresh. I always take a huge “shipment” to my family and friends in Houston, San Antonio and elsewhere. The pink cake has it’s own fan(atic) club – and even had a poem written in it’s honor… yeah, we’re that addicted!

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