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Miguel The Breadmaker

(As told to Jenny Johnson, Journey North)
After putting on my mandil (apron) each morning, I think to myself: "quality first", and start to prepare 800 pansitos ("little breads"). Some days the shapes and styles change but never the quality of my pansitos.

Hello, I am Miguel, the breadmaker. After five long years of working as a supervisor in various companies, and not making quite enough money to support my family, I decided to start my own business. I can now earn more money, work with less stress, and have bread for my family everyday.

Unlike other larger panaderias (bread stores ), I have very few utensils besides my table, a few small blades and patterns, a large horno (brick oven), and my wife Maltide, sons Fausto and Miguel, and daugther Jasmine. Yet someday I hope to have enough money to buy a mixer and mixing bowls.

Miguel showing some of his ingredients, measuring devices and technique.

Starting With The Dough
Masa is the dough. I always start in the morning by 8:00 am making masa for the two types of bread: pan blanco and pan dulce (white bread and sweet bread). The only ingredients that I use are harina de trigo (wheat flour), azucar (sugar), levadura (yeast), carbonato (baking soda), huevos (eggs), manteca (vegetable shortning), and mantiquilla (butter).
I first prepare the topping for the batches of pan dulce. I measure the manteca, and set it on the clean table. Then I measure the azucar, harina, and cocoa (cocoa powder) and set all these on top of the manteca. I pour a few cups of agua (water) over these ingredients and mix it all with my hands. This creates what is called the pasta (topping). I then make balls of this pasta and put them aside until I have prepared and cut out the dough for the pan dulce. I now combine the same ingredients for pan dulce minus the manteca, shape the dough and put it all on separate ojas (metal baking sheets). While these are rising, I make the dough for pan blanco which does not contain the azucar. This dough I will also shape and lay on the shelves to rise after I knead it for at least 20 minutes. Masar (to knead) is the most tiring after the whole day. Jasmine has her specialty. She prepares the batter to make pancas (muffins) by measuring and mixing with her clean hands some eggs, orange peels, sugar flour, baking soda and oil.

Miguel preparing the pasta, mixing the ingredients in a bowl supported only by flour, and kneading the masa.

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