Thursday, June 01, 2006

'La Espiga'—Una Panaderia Tradicional

Following up on a tip from a fellow Mexpat yesterday, I went looking for a traditional bakery, in a rambling home located in a less well-known area of Pátzcuaro.
I walked to it after a circuitous, but interesting and pleasant search. Well, I went across the RR tracks too soon, but all was well, as it allowed me to visit an outlying colonia of Pátzcuaro I hadn't been to before.

The bakery is located inside a home unmarked by any sign. The open portal goes into the patio. There is a door to the side which opens into a dimly lit baking room.

I went into the cave-like work area, introduced myself, and Don Vicente Ramos, el maestro panadero (who has been at this work for 53 years—if I understood correctly—) allowed me to photograph him at work.
I was impressed by the skills involved in loading and unloading the wood-burning oven with the narrow wooden baker's peel through the narrow oven door.
Don Vicente told me that until about 10 or 11 years ago, when they put in mixers and kneaders all the work had to be done by muscle power.

I was very impressed by the thick, shall we say, "patina" on the raising shelves. More impressive were the rows of bolillos in their linen "couche" on a shelf outside. At a glance, it seems not to be the highest standards of hygiene, but after all, it's mostly flour, water, salt and prefermented leftover dough. Yes, it's sort of a levain method, requiring at least two refreshments of the doughs before cutting, shaping, placing in couche, and baking the rolls.

I left with a purchase of 10 bolillos, fresh from the oven, and 6 pan dulce. I think it all cost about 16 pesos. I have to say, it may be among the most primitive bakeries I have ever visited, but I have a lot of respect for their work. These rolls are served at Restaurante El Camino Real, on the highway east of Pátzcuaro, just before Tzurumútaro, behind the Pemex station with the OXXO store to one side.

We tried some of these handmade bolillos for lunch. They have a density and more "character" than the usual, over-yeasted ones commonly available elsewhere. A short stay in our toaster oven, and they come out crisp crusted and tasty. We ate ours with avocado, tomato, lettuce, and a little cheese.

Later, we tried some pan dulce. They are interesting to look at, especially these, for they seem to be imprinted with homemade tools. Like most pan dulce, they are less interesting to eat, than to look at, yet not bad.

This day turned out badly. After a nice breakfast of
carne de cerdo en salsa negra at a stand near Don Chucho's tienda, I tripped and fell hard. That is described in Tripping—Potholes in Paradise,
on my other blog.
Unfortunately, most of the photos I'd taken did not come out well. Anyway, it's an excuse to visit again and try to show the work of masters of a disappearing art.
I haven't had a chance to return yet.

Updated August 25, 2007: We were reacquainted with the bolillos y pan dulce during a recent breakfast at El Camino Real Restaurant with the men's group. Enough interest was raised, that our neighbor, Larry W. and Ron G. (El Perro Bailarín) went out to the bakery to see it and buy some bolillos. Most everything had been sold out by 10:30 a.m., but el Maestro was there, and he pulled out the last batch from the oven as we entered the baking room. My interest was rekindled, and I hope to return soon, this time with a better camera and flash to take some photos.

Updated June 12, 2008.
We visited the bakery again yesterday, and were fortunate to observe the baking and to take pictures with a more capable camera. If you click the slideshow window below, it will open a new window with larger versions of the photos.
We also learned that the production starts earlier than I thought we'd been told. See the album on Picasa Web.