Pan Dulce

Pan Dulce

Pan dulce (English: sweet bread) is the name for a variety of Mexican pastries. The creation of sweet bread was influenced by the French and Spaniards who were the ones that introduced baked goods such as crispy rolls, baguettes, and sweet pastries to Mexico. This inspired the indigenous peoples to create different types of panes dulces such as besos, conchas, and cuernos, among others. Pan Dulce is considered to be one of Mexico’s most inexpensive treats and is consumed daily as breakfast or late supper, known as merienda.

Pan dulce is considered to be a Mexican cuisine even though its origins are European in that the term and the bread originated in from Gibraltar. Other countries in Latin America and even Europe have adapted some of Mexico’s pastries, but it is in Mexico that the creative new shapes originate. Today, pan dulce is seen in many parts of the United States, especially in places like California and Texas, as a result of migration.

In Mexico, pan dulce is typically consumed at breakfast or evening supper. It is usually accompanied by hot chocolate, milk (or warn milk), or coffee, and is dipped into the drink for better taste. It can also be eaten alone. Pan dulce has been an important part of Mexican cuisine since the colonial years when the Spaniards introduced wheat and the French brought crispy baguettes and rich pastries. Traditional local dishes were soon replaced with European cuisine that aroused Mexican’s taste buds. In addition to its great taste, pan dulce is also inexpensive, an incentive for daily consumption.

Types

The creative contribution of French baked goods to Mexico’s cuisine peaked in the early 20th century during the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. Skilled Mexican bakers adopted French techniques to create new bread designs with colorful names. Today, Mexican bakers are among the most inventive in the world; it is estimated that there are approximately 2,000 types of bread currently produced in Mexico. Among these are:

Almohada Chirimoya Moño de danés Pan redondo o moreliano
Antaño Chirindolfo Mundos Pan típico de nuez
Barquillo Cocoles Neblina Panquecito
Barra para rebanadasda Colchón Nopal Pechuga
Beso Concha Novia Piedra
Bicicletas Congal Ojo de Pancha Polvorón
Bigote Coyota Oreja Puerquito de piloncillo
Bisquet Cuerno de mantequilla Pachucos Rebanada
Bocado Cuerno de vapor Pan catarino Regañada
Budín Donas Pan de caja Reja
Burrita Doroteo Pan de elote Rehiletes
Calabaza Elote Pan de feria Rieles
Calvo Empanochada Pan de muerto Rosca de reyes
Calzón Gallets de coco Pan de pueblo Roscas de canela
Canasta Gendarme Pan de pulque Soles
Caracol Guarapo Pan de royal Tanas
Cemita Gusano Pan de yema Tecoyota
Chafaldrana Gusarapo Pan de letras Trenza
Chamuco Hojaldra Pan de corazón Yolanda
Chicharrón Ladrillo Pan de tornillo Yoyos
Chilindrina Manita Pan mestizo
Chimistlán Mexicano Pan redondo bordado

Descriptions

Besos – A beso (kiss), from Mexico, is made by creating round domes on the top with a drop filling of jam in the middle.

Campechanas – Campechanas are rectangular glazed Mexican pastries, a very common pan dulce.

Conchas (shells) are known for their shell-like shape and sugar shell pattern on the top. This is one of the most famous Mexican pastries and widely recognized in the United States. It is also referred to as “pan de huevo” (egg bread) in other Latin American countries, such as Chile, where you eat them for tea time or on the beach.

Cuernos (horns) are a Mexican pastry that is known for their horn-like shape. This pastry has garnered many comparisons to the French croissant.

Empanadas (turnovers) are a pastry more commonly served in Cuba and South America but also have a place in Mexican cuisine. They are filled with meat or other ingredients such as cheese or vegetables of different sorts. They are also filled with fruit such as pumpkin or apple.

Marranitos / cochinitos / puerquitos (little pigs)

Marranitos / cochinitos / puerquitos (little pigs) are pig-shaped pastries sweetened with piloncillo and spiced with cinnamon. The bread has erroneously been called “gingerbread pig” because the finished result looks similar to gingerbread. However, ginger isn’t used to make the pastry.

Orejas (ears) are flaky and sweet Mexican pastries that are shaped like an ear and are very common at bakeries. They are very similar to a French Palmier.

Piedras (rocks or stones) is a pastry made of old bread and is known to be as hard as a rock. Many people eat this with very hot drinks.

Polvorones (wedding cookies) are shortbread cookies, often eaten at weddings.

Yoyos (yo-yos) are a Mexican pastry named after the yo-yo toy, and is shaped exactly like it, but does not have the string. It has a filling which usually consists of raspberry jam.

For religious occasions/Seasonal pastries

With the invention of pan dulce in Mexico, other significant breads were produced to celebrate special occasions and traditions, such as rosca de reyes and pan de muerto. These special breads are part of the traditional customs that have been around for centuries. The stories behind these special occasional breads derive from religious beliefs, the dominant being Roman Catholic.

Rosca de reyes

Rosca de reyes (‘kings’ crown’) is a treat in addition to a gift that is given on Three Kings Day, Dia de los Reyes Magos, which is held twelve days after Christmas, the celebration date of the birth of Jesus Christ. This bread is symbolic in many ways, the most illustrative being its round shape which signifies the crown of the Reyes Magos; see Biblical Magi. Baked inside is a small white plastic or ceramic figurine which represents the baby Jesus. The hidden baby Jesus symbolizes the secrecy of the location of Jesus as a child. The ruler of Jerusalem, King Herod, upon learning about the birth of the rightful King of Jerusalem, ordered that all male infants be killed so that he could keep his crown. Whoever finds the small figurine is obligated to host a party for the celebration of the Dia de la Candelaria – Fiesta de la Candelaria – which occurs on February 2.

Pan de muerto

Pan de muerto (‘bread of the dead’) is a special bread that is consumed and offered as a part of the Día de Muertos celebration in October and November. Day of the Dead is a lively and communal commemoration of the dead. Pan de muerto dates back to the conquest years as a replacement for the Aztec rituals of human sacrifice. As the Spaniards witnessed a heart being ripped out of a human and then bitten, they created bread in shapes of hearts with red coated sugar to avoid human sacrifices. Pan de muerto traces its roots back to the Aztec tradition of placing food as offerings on the tombs of the deceased. The food offerings sustained the spirits on their journey to their underworld. The bread takes many different shapes, from skulls to animals to crosses and mummies. The traditional pan de muerto is shaped like a skull, round, with a little ball at the center top to represent a cranium. Following are the four bones to symbolize the four courses of the universe.

Almohada
Antaño
Barquillo
Barra para rebanadas
Beso
Bicicletas
Bigote
Bisquet
Bocado
Budín
Burrita
Calabaza
Calvo
Calzón
Canasta
Caracol
Cemita
Chafaldrana
Chamuco
Chicharrón
Chilindrina
Chimistlán

Chirimoya
Chirindolfo
Cocoles
Colchón
Concha
Congal
Coyota
Cuerno de mantequilla
Cuerno de vapor
Donas
Doroteo
Elote
Empanochada
Gallets de coco
Gendarme
Guarapo
Gusano
Gusarapo
Hojaldra
Ladrillo
Manita
Mexicano
Moño de danés
Mundos
Neblina
Nopal
Novia
Ojo de Pancha
Oreja
Pachucos
Pan catarino
Pan de caja
Pan de elote
Pan de feria
Pan de muerto
Pan de pueblo
Pan de pulque
Pan de royal
Pan de yema
Pan decorado con letras
Pan en forma de corazón
Pan en forma de tornillo
Pan mestizo
Pan redondo bordado
Pan redondo o moreliano
Pan típico de nuez
Panquecito
Pechuga
Piedra
Polvorón
Puerquito de piloncillo
Rebanada
Regañada
Reja
Rehiletes
Rieles
Rosca de reyes
Roscas de canela
Soles
Tanas
Tecoyota
Trenza
Yolanda
Yoyos

 

About G. William Hood

G. William Hood is a writer, fine arts painter, educator and world traveler. He lives in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
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