Monday, January 5, 2015

Molletes are a Well Known Guatemalan Bread

I lived in Guatemala for 12 years, in the 1970s and earliest '80s. I understand a lot has changed in the years since then, but my memories of that time are clear. The bread in Guatemala was unlike anything I had ever seen in my 20 years prior to moving there. They had "French Bread" or "Pan Frances". this was the main, unsweetened bread. Aside from this, and the ubiquitous corn tortillas, there were what were called either Pan Dulce ("sweet bread") or Pan de Manteca (a bread made with shortening/butter/lard) These sweet/shortening type breads were so many and so varied that it is hard to even describe them. I do not recall the names of all of them. I wrote a little of this in a recent blog of December 8, 2014.

What is a Mollete?

Molletes with egg and beans for breakfast
Mollete is pronounced "moh-YET-tay". The double "LL" in the middle is pronounced as "Y". Molletes, one of the "Panes de Manteca", or sweet breads, are small, individual sized rounded breads, vaguely sweet, and most often seen with a little mound of some sort of sugary substance stuck on the top. These little breads are excellent with beans and coffee for breakfast, or at any time of day. Great in the afternoon with coffee as a snack, also. The bread is rich, soft inside, but with some substance. Aside from just eating them on the day they are made, once leftover, they become dry and crumbly. Guatemalans rarely waste foods, so once the bread becomes dried out, it becomes the basis for other things. 

Molletes are also used to create a dessert called "Molletes". Confusing? I suppose. Sometimes this dessert is distinguished by calling it Molletes en Dulce, meaning they are made into a "sweet". This dessert is a specialty around Holy Week before Easter, but it can be made at any time. To make the dessert, the top is cut off the breads, a little of the bread is scooped out and filled in with cream, or cornstarch custard. The little "lid" is place back on top, and the whole bread is coated in very well beaten eggs, fluffy and light. They are then fried, so no raw egg remains, and then slipped into a large pot of simmering sugar syrup, flavored with cinnamon and raisins and allowed to absorb this liquid. These were a most delectable treat, and one fantastic way to use leftover bread. On occasion, something similar is done with other types of bread. I have made them with French bread, cut into 2-inch cubes. 

Molletes, served
Recently I made another of the Guatemalan sweet breads, called Champurradas (recipe in the same blog as noted above), which are like a large, not very sweet cookie. Since most of these breads are made only at the bakeries found everywhere, no one makes them at home. Hence, no recipes. It is very hard to replicate a bread I ate over 40 years ago, with no recipe to at least give some approximation of what is used. One of the breads I most wish I had some kind of recipe for is one my ex-husband said are called Shecas. These, at least in Guatemala City where I lived, were not a totally white variety of bread, but I don't know if whole wheat was used or some other grain. The bread was denser than the molletes. Anise seeds were in the bread, but not in abundance, so when you took a bite, it was hit or miss to actually taste a seed. When the anise seed did make its presence known, it was sort of a joyous feeling of satisfaction; triumph. And, these Shecas were wonderful when eating black beans. I so wish I had some idea of the ingredients.

I have been trying to make as many Guatemalan foods as possible, in order to get the photos to use in the cookbook/memoir I am still working on. I made the molletes just after Christmas, and have a bunch of them frozen. Eating them brings back a flood of taste memories, so I must have hit close to how the recipe should be made. Here is what I did:


makes  2 dozen

1 cup warm water (90 - 100 degrees)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted, unsalted butter
4 to 4 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon "instant" or "rapid-rise" yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons shortening

In a mixer bowl combine the water, sugar and melted butter. Separately, whisk together 2 cups of the flour with the yeast and salt. Set the bowl with the water mixture into a stand mixer with dough hook. Add the dry ingredients into the wet and mix to combine. Add in the eggs and beat in, adding in 2 more cups of the flour. Continue kneading for a total of 10 minutes, adding in the remaining 3/4 cup of flour if needed to make a firm dough. Grease a large bowl and scrape the dough into the bowl, turning once to grease both sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Cut the dough into 24 equal balls. Form each portion of the dough into a nice, tight little ball and set well apart (about 3-inches between) on greased baking sheets. Press down slightly on each.
Size of the dough balls                |           placement of baking sheet         |                          baked Molletes

Make the topping by mixing together the three ingredients as for a streusel, though this will be far stickier. Moisten the top of each little bread ball with water, then place about 1/2 teaspoon of the topping mixture on each, spreading and flattening the mixture with moist fingers. Set the breads aside to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to an hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake the breads for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden, rotating the sheets once halfway through baking time for even browning.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.