One of the best parts of Mexico is the Panaderias. Panaderia means bakery.
It is actually much different than what I always imagined as a bakery, full of cookies and cake and a few loaves of bread. The word Pan means bread, and so literally it is just ALL bread. Everything in the Panaderia is pan, maybe a few cookies, but people still call it pan, not cookies. It is kind of weird, and when you ask someone what this or that is, they will always just answer "pan," so it can be kind of frustrating to not know the exact name.
After a while with my family, I have seen tons of Pan, and I think I know what is good and what is bad. We typically eat pan for breakfast, and pan for dinner sometimes too. Pan is SO so cheap, usually one piece of pan is about 2 or 3 pesos, which comes out to be less than a quarter, maybe 15 cents, VERY cheap. Basically you can get a bag full of pan for less than a dollar or 75 cents and it is mostly all delicious. Let me introduce you to how wonderful it all looks..I am only sorry you can't smell it when it fills the town.
Surprisingly, most panaderias are not open early like bakeries in the U.S. The bread starts rolling out onto the shelves around noon, and the best stuff is usually out around 7 p.m. There are so many kinds I could go on and on, but we will just highlight a few. Let's begin class..
First off we have the typical sandwich bread. This huge bathtub of white bread is called tortas, and are typically served with smashed frijoles, cheese, lettuce, avacado, tomato, mayo, and some sort of meat..maybe ham. To me, they are dry and crusty, and I really try to avoid them, because I don't really care for white bread, but here, everyone loves the heck out of them.
Another common bread that you can find at even the tiniest panaderias is the conche. They look kind of like seashells, hence the name, and are sweet and soft. On top they have a crumb coat of vanilla, chocolate or strawberry, and the bright red one is just sugar. These are also one of the cheapest, and are popular at breakfast dipped in your warm milk, coffee or hot chocolate.
One of my personal favorites, the oreja, is a thin crispy piece of pan. It is more like a pastry, and it is named oreja, meaning ear, because it resembles an elephant ear. They are usually coated in sugar, and at some places cinnamon sugar which is even better. I like orejas, because they aren't very big or filling like all the other bread.
Another one of my favorites, which are usually common at every single panaderia are yo-yos. At first, when my host family gave me one of these big sugary balls, I wasn't so sure about them. But I absolutely love them, so much that I have to limit myself to only buying them once in a while, like on Saturdays or something. They really are delicious. They are very soft, and covered in a sugary cream, with sugar stuck to it. Then in between the two sides of the 'yo yo' it has a creme filling, which is slightly like frosting. The only time yo-yos aren't good is if the bottom of one of the 'yos' was burnt, because burnt bread can be covered up with creme and then it still won't taste good. But you would never know when you went to buy it, so watch out!
I bet you are thinking this colorful think looks awesomely delicious too right?? Well you are close...it LOOKS delicious, but really its just some bread with whip cream and sprinkles. All those colors tend to fool you into thinking it is gonna be like a party in your mouth. Although, it is pretty impressive how they can get that pink swirl of bread all up in there, but don't be fooled, it is not strawberry flavored. Most of the time, this type of pan is just ok, but maybe there is some better version out there somewhere...
Lastly, these are my host mom's favorite. I see her get them ALL the time. I don't know what it is. These both are pretty much the same thing, just different shapes, and sizes. There are two butter cookies slapped together with a little frosting and that is it people. I don't really consider it pan, because like I said, they are cookies, not bread like at all, but they still taste delicious.
Well now I think you have successfully passed Panaderia 101. It's a delicious class right?? Well in all seriousness, if you have a local panaderia near you, run by some Mexican folks, go try it!! I know that where I am from, we probably have 2 or 3, and I cannot wait to go home to scoop up tons of pan for my family to try in Kentucky. You might be surprised how yummy it all really tastes.
Now that you have an A+ in a sugary bread class, you might need to go do some Zumba.