Cooks who will soon arrive from the frozen reaches of Canada recently asked which traditional Mexican panadería I would recommend. The first answer that popped into my mind was Soriana, part of a Monterrey-based supermarket chain and the main anchor of Sendero, our spanking new mall geared toward the local population. I invite you to read prior entries about Chef Oropeza’s visit and the Taco Inn located in the food court to give you an idea of Sendero’s expansive public spaces.
Let’s begin with sweet breads, pan dulce. The most widely known are conchas, those iconic yeasty Mexican breakfast rolls made with lots of eggs but low in fat so they tend to dry out. Luckily there are many ways to bring them back to their full glory — one is to sprinkle or brush them with milk and run them in a hot oven for a few minutes. Another is simply to split and toast them; they’re wonderful with butter and jam, and of course a cup of hot coffee or Mexican chocolate. It’s not traditional, but I also find they make wonderful French toast!
The distinctive shell pattern atop conchas is made of flour, sugar, butter and, for dark toppings, cocoa powder and/or cinnamon, all rubbed together to form an edible Play-Dough mass. This is divided into balls, flattened into a circle to fit the top of the bun before rising… then a specialized metal cutter is pressed over the topping to form the characteristic spiral pattern. If you don’t have a cutter you can trace your own pattern with a knife.
Here is a beautiful display of pastel de tres leches (super moist cake made with “three milks”) ready to be sold by the piece — backed with a colorful tower of everyone’s favorite accompaniment, Mexican hot chocolate!
The panadería is also the place to buy fresh bolillos, the ubiquitous crusty French-type roll, and teleras, flattened rolls perfect for stuffing with layered ingredients and toasted panini fashion to create a torta, the renowned Mexican sandwich.
A typical Mexican panadería is a visual fiesta! I hope this gives you some idea of the expansive variety and colorful display; even a chain supermaket like Soriana retains the feel of traditional markets, knowing this will inspire shoppers to take home and enjoy their favorite comfort foods.