Sweet bread has a culture of its own in Mexico, and is a tradition that has been embraced and deeply loved for generations. We have primarily Spain and France to thank for that, as their influence is why we have such a passion for sweet pastry and breads plus a love for that classic combination: coffee and bread. The shapes and flavors of Mexican sweet breads amount to more than a thousand, each one with its unique and sometimes picturesque names, like: bows, braids, kisses, brides, bicycles, stones, baldies, lovers, bricks, yoyos, and rails, just to mention a few. We obviously cannot forget to mention the famous “Conchas”, which resemble a seashell and come in many flavors.
Among these baked treats are yeast breads, puff pastries, cookie-type breads, and cake-like breads, like these delicious bread “Mantecadas”, which are really quick and easy to make in your oven. They’re perfect for having a late afternoon coffee with, or for a weekend breakfast in bed, or even for when you have last minute visitors coming over for a cup of coffee or tea.
Mexican bakers are usually men that have learned the trade from one generation to another; some arrived to the baking business as an apprentice, starting their career in bread making from there. Thanks to the internet and social media, I’ve met quite a few of these men, called “panaderos” in Mexico. Some have many years of experience and are now teaching the younger aspiring bakers in Mexico, as they want the Mexican Traditional Bakery to be preserved. They are always happy to share their expertise with me and answer my many questions about baking, and for that I am very thankful.
But there are also many newcomers, the young bakers, who graduated from culinary school and have fallen in love with bread making, like my friend Hector M. Oliva Balderas, a young man only in his mid 20’s who’s opened his own bakery in the small town of Teotihuacan. Being a baker is hard work, but that doesn’t stop him from his dream of keeping the tradition of artisanal bakery alive. He even delivers his bread on his bicycle a couple days a week. I hope that there’ll be more young people like him out there keeping our customs and traditions.
|I’m so proud of this young man. A promise for the future of Mexican bread making.|
MAKES 6 MANTECADAS
- 2 large eggs
- 125 grams of sugar (½ cup + 1 tbs)*
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp vanilla or orange essence**
- 1 tsp orange zest (optional)
- 125 grams of All Purpose flour (1 cup minus 1 tbs)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 pinch of salt
2 Bowls, whisk, measuring cups and spoons, muffin paper liners, muffin pan, pitcher or a ladle to pour the batter.
*First and foremost, I will suggest that you buy a small kitchen scale, they are not that expensive, and are an essential tool for bread making. Baking is more like a science, where in order to have excellent results, your ingredients have to be measure using a reliable tool like a scale.
**Every baker chooses the flavoring of their choice. It could be vanilla, orange, cinnamon or almond.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder and yeast in one medium size bowl, and set aside. Place egg and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until sugar has dissolved.
3. Add milk and the flavoring of your choice (vanilla, orange essence plus orange zest) and mix.
4. Incorporate the oil in a gentle stream and whisk again to form a homogenous mixture.
5. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients plus the pinch of salt, mixing gently until you have a very uniform batter. Do not over mix. Let the batter rest for 15 minutes.
6. With the help of a pitcher or a ladle, pour the batter into the already prepared muffin pan. Fill it up just a little bit bellow the edge. See picture above.
7. Carefully place in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for about 5 minutes on a cooling rack. They keep well for 2 to 3 days when stored in an airtight container.