Sunday, February 3, 2019

I 💗 Gluten

I remember first walking down the streets of Panajachel, Guatemala, almost four years ago and being filled with both delight and disgust at the variety of smells.
Delight -- delicious foods being cooked
Disgust -- sewage, rotten things, and diesel fumes

One of the best smells of all comes when you walk past a bakery. Something I love about living here in Pana is that there are tons of places to get fresh-baked buns and treats. Now, notice I said "buns" and not "bread". This was something I learned in my first week here. The bakeries don't bake bread. HUH? What kinda bakery doesn't bake bread??

Well, I didn't know this when I first went into a small bakery in Jucanya way back in 2015. My nose led me into the little shop, drawn by the early morning smell of yeasty goodness. Feeling smart cuz I knew the Spanish word, I asked for pan - bread. The lady raised an eyebrow and me and said, "What kind?" I was a bit baffled and started to look around the shelves and in the racks behind her. She pulled out some baskets and showed me a dozen different varieties of buns and rolls. I said, "No, pan," and mimed the shape of a loaf. She shook her head. Nope, no bread here. Slightly mystified, I bought some delicious fresh buns and went on my way.

A bit later, I was in Despensa Familiar (the grocery store) where they sell regular loaves of sliced bread and I checked the package label. It said pan sandwich. Oooh! Sandwich bread. Makes perfect sense, once you hear it!

Back I went to a different bakery armed with my new vocabulary. ¿Tienes pan sandwich? (Do you have sandwich bread?) Nope, no sliced bread. Hrm. Curious. After trying several places over the next few weeks, I eventually gave up trying to find a freshly-baked loaf of sliced bread. Instead, I bought boring sliced white bread at Despensa and buy all my other bready products from the bakeries.

Recently, I was pleased to find more baked goods including awesome loaves of bread in the back of Chalo's and the front of Sandra's. You can get seeded loaves, focaccia, croissants, bagels, and baguettes. Pricey but worth it!

Here's another little secret! Almost every corner store has a basket of freshly baked buns for sale. The big bakeries make loads of buns of different shapes and sizes and deliver them to the tiendas in baskets or crates. The store owner usually places a brightly coloured cloth on top of the basket to keep the bread fresh, so you may not notice that it's there. But don't be shy. Lift up that cloth and take a peek at the yumminess hiding beneath!

How to shop:
Bakeries here in Panajachel operate usually in a choose-your-own manner. You walk in, trying not to drool, pick up a basket and a pair of tongs, and pick out your individual buns or rolls or cookies or whatever else catches your eye. You take your filled basket to the counter and they count the pieces out into a bag, you pay, and off you go!
buns bread bakery pan
Buns for sale at the local bakery in Jucanya.

6 packaged processed "normal" hamburger buns at Despensa Familiar Q14
6 delicious fresh-baked soft hamburger buns at the bakery only Q3!
Most individual buns, cookies, and smaller items in the bakeries are Q0.50 each (50 centavos). Bigger or fancier rolls are more.
Banana bread (pan banano) Q10 to Q20 depending on the size and the bakery

bun octopus bread
So cute! A little bread octopus! Only 50 centavos.
Bakeries are more than just buns, of course! Even the smallest bakery will sell cookies, generally of two types. Champurradas are the ubiquitous Guatemalan cookie, perfect for dunking in your coffee. They not really sweet, crispy on the edges and kinda soft in the middle, often topped with sesame seeds.
Other cookies I've purchased from smaller bakeries come in different shapes -- rounds, fingers, flowers -- but seem to all be made from the same dough. I have to say that they're not very good and if anyone is interested in an unmet need in Panajachel, come down and open up a cookie store! I will be your best customer, I promise!

Champurradas. Photo courtesy of  Antigua Daily Photo.
Click the picture to go to their website! I love it!
In Pana, there are several bigger bakeries and cake shops. I won't go into all of them here. It will be more fun for you when you to visit and stroll around and discover them on your own. 😊

Looks delicious, doesn't it?

Cupcakes, oh my!
I should mention that this is my experience in Panajachel, which is a rather small town in a rural area of Guatemala. I have seen some pretty awesome bakeries in the bigger cities of Guatemala City, Antigua, and Xela (Quetzaltenango). They had such amazing variety! I'm sure you would have no problem getting your gluten/sugar fix on in any of those places. 😋

pan = bread items of all types
pan sandwich = loaf of bread
panadería = bakery
pastelería = cake shop
pan frances = a roll for making sandwiches
pan dulce = a roll with a bit of sweetness in it, usually fancier looking
galletas = cookies
pastel = cake
pan banano = banana bread
pan zanahoria = carrot bread
cubiletes = this is a Guatemalan word for cupcakes
magdaleñas = also cupcakes, I think
mufin = muffin (ha!)

Please, comment below if you have any experience with bakeries in Guatemala. I'd love to hear more proper terms for the baked goods, and also where your favourite bakery is!