Pan Dulce

– Submitted by Vanessa Galas

 My great grandmother Guadalupe left Mexico as a very young woman with three small babies in tow.  She came to the US and took up residence in Los Angeles where she made tortillas to make ends meet (somewhat). 

It is there that she met my great grandfather Cenaido and they had my grandmother Lidia. My grandparents came up in the age of segregation (my grandfather was black and Mexican) and the Zoot Suit Riots. Los Angeles wasn’t an easy place for them so they assimilated as best they could. They spoke Spanish to each other but encouraged their three daughters to speak only English and left East LA. 

My mother and aunties grew up having a complicated sense of their identity. What wasn’t lost was the food. My entire Mexican identity comes from the food I learned to make as a child and now make for my own. 

Though they are both now deceased, I think of my grandparents every time I make tortillas or tamales, or any of the other delicious acts of love they shared. As a little girl I most fondly remember going to the panderia with my grandmother and picking out pan dulce (sweet bread) for the next day’s breakfast. For all her love of cooking, grandma’s baking skills were terrible. The dinner rolls she proudly made each holiday sat there on our plates like hockey pucks. This is not my grandmother’s recipe for pan dulce because if it was, it would be terrible. It is my own, but when I eat pan dulce I think of her.

Recipe

Cookie:

500g flour (you can use AP flour but you can also use the bread flour we use for baking bread)

125g granulated sugar

7.5g active dry yeast

3g salt

100g unsalted butter (room temperature)

2 large eggs

5g vanilla extract

120g warm milk

For the topping:

100g unsalted butter

100g confectioners sugar

120g flour

10g cocoa powder

Extra butter, melted (do not add to the mix but keep for later)

Method

Proof the yeast in the warm milk and set aside for 10-15 minutes until bubbly. Mix the flour, sugar and salt together. Add 100 g of butter, eggs and vanilla. Add in the milk/yeast mixture slowly. If you are using a mixer, use medium speed for 5-7 minutes or until the flour separates from the bowl. At this point the dough should feed elastic.

Knead the dough by hand and shape into a ball.

Let the dough rest covered and somewhere warm until it doubles in size.

You can prepare the topping while the dough is rising.

Take the unsalted butter (room temperature) and beat until creamy. Add in the confectioners sugar, flour and cocoa powder until it is mixed well. Separate into 16 small balls and flatten each one down using the palm of your hand or the bottom of a glass. Use parchment paper to help prevent sticking.

Once the dough has doubled in size, take it out of the bowl divide the dough into 16 small balls.

Place them onto a greased baking sheet or parchment paper.

You can dip the ball into the melted butter (just coating the top half) or you can use a pastry brush to paint it on. This is to help the topping stick.

Take the flattened piece of topping and place on each of the buns. Use a knife to score the topping like a shell. Set aside somewhere warm and let them double in size again.

Once they have reached the right size, bake at 325F for 20 minutes or until the bottoms are just golden.