There are foods that just seem to be made exclusively for one another. Think peanut butter and jelly or rum and coke. Then there are things that are the opposite of that, and go well with just about everything. Pan Dulce is one of the latter. You can enjoy it with just about any sweet hot beverage. It goes especially well with coffee, hot cocoa or just regular warm milk.
These sweet buns of sheer awesomeness originated in Mexico during colonial times. The Spanish brought over a lot of wheat with them since they considered it the only grain suitable for making the Eucharist wafer. According to legend, wheat was a little too bland for the local palate. Thankfully, this side of the world was blessed with a rare type of dark gold also known as “chocolate”. So, an intrepid viceroy began dipping his boring bread in hot chocolate and the custom soon caught on throughout the colonies. And that’s how two cultures came together to create a sweet treat that’s good for every meal.
Just to be clear, Pan Dulce is a very, very vast term. It literally translates to “sweet bread”. It is often made of flower, shortening, sugar, yeast, and eggs. The shapes, textures, combinations, and flavours offered in bakeries throughout the country are pretty much endless as they’ll add or remove certain ingredients to give it their own personal touch. There’s not an official number of varieties of sweet bread, but estimates put it in the thousands.
The different types are often named after what they resemble. For instance, one of the most popular kinds are “conchas”, which effectively look like seashells. There are also Cuernos (“Horns”), Ojos de Buey (“Ox’s Eyes”), and the more colourful Niños Envueltos (“wrapped up children”). Again, it all really depends on its ingredients and the shape of the bread.
The ones we personally like best can be found in Panadería San Antonio in La Antigua, Guatemala. The bakery was founded by María Teresa de León circa 1935. The spot uses a wood oven to bake their hand-made buns of deliciousness. According to the founder’s granddaughter who now runs the place, the fact that it’s hand-made gives the bread a better consistency as it comes out bulkier, which is bound to fill you up better.
Pan Dulce is normally made two times a day in every single bakery throughout the country. Some of them even sell it to Tiendas in bulk, so it’s always within walking distance from wherever you might be right now. Don’t be afraid to enjoy it with a nice cup of coffee at any time of the day! You won’t regret it!
P.s.: Definitely try dunking it in the coffee; it suddenly makes life worthwhile if you’re having a crappy day.