Sunday, January 26, 2014

Muffin - A Piece of Bread from Andalusia

In southern rich breakfast muffins of Antequera are known for its tradition, but are easy to find throughout the region. Andalusian muffins have soft crumb, seasoned with butter from Iberian pigs. In Scottish cuisine we found something similar, the Scot Baps. They are soft, tender and very floury buns traditionally taken with stuffed egg and bacon breakfast or grilled tenderloin. It is prepared with a mixture of 50% water and milk and sprinkled liberally with flour before baking. In some recipes also they include lard in their composition.

I spent so many years searching in vain for a particular type of muffins that I thought that did not really exist. In my strange role of Indiana Jones I have scoured muffins on every vacation for more than 5 years. I've tried dozens of muffins on the Costa del Sol and none has convinced me.

At ten o'clock at night, calm disappears. At that time, the facilities of a small company on the outskirts of Antequera become a hotbed. There, a team works lovingly prepared to maintain one of the greatest traditions of their city. It's time to stick their hands in the dough and produce the most famous rolls of Andalusia muffins.
The scene happens every night except Saturday at the San Roque oven.

Flour, yeast, water and salt are the ingredients for some muffins that this family takes from the 50s of last century . Natural fermentation for about four hours (depending on ambient temperature) and oven cooking stove make each unit acquires perfect characteristics. And at six o'clock, freshly baked muffins begin to get into Antequera, where is almost 95 percent of production.

Muffin images

Muffin tradition in the city of El Torcal goes back several centuries. In fact, a few years ago a reference was found in a report chapter of the Archives of Antequera, 1775, in which approval was granted to a baker to knead French bread and muffins. Today, manufacturing has evolved and in most cases is produced industrially, with exceptions as Horno San Roque.

One by one, with hands and much love of the family and a team of workers make every night hundreds of muffins. Everything is handmade. The secret is in the dough and the wood oven is essential.

Muffin is recognizable by fluffiness, texture, flavor and, among other things, by their appearance: no two alike, either in form or in cooking. From there, the varieties of Antequera muffins are multipleBecause in the city almost every bakery produces their own. There are also several companies engaged in the manufacture of this local product, most linked to the family stops itself and the original oven Street San Roque, although each of processed differently.

Yes, all start from the same ingredients but muffins differ greatly from each other according to the number and variety of flour, baking form or type of fermentation. Therefore, it is easy to find many differences when taking these breads in the city of El Torcal. Although other Andalusian cities are known for their muffins taste like Écija in the province of Sevilla or wait in Cadiz.

In Andalusia , the most common is to take it with olive oil extra virgin, crushed tomatoes and serrano ham, but there are also those who prefer just butter and jam or homemade pate smeared. Woodstoves, traditional processing and unique flavors. We're going south in search of Andalusian muffins. A bread with only four ingredients but that is a whole universe of possibilities. We enter Malaga, Seville and Cadiz to find families that produce and learn its secrets. And, of course, we eat with the best local ingredients. Do you not smell of freshly baked bread?

In the 50s of last century, Juan Paradas elaborated muffins for different bakeries in Antequera. In 1957 he established his own kiln in San Roque. At that time, it was a luxury, since most of the population could barely buy a small loaf of bread. Gradually, most local bakers stopped making muffins, but John kept it alive.

The use of good flour, drawing hand, natural fermentation (for up to four hours) and cooking in an exceptional traditional oven stove are some secrets. A craft formula which is also the reason that 95 percent of the production stays in Antequera. Maybe that's why the texture, fluffiness and taste are so characteristic, as its rhomboid shape. Without forgetting its bark, with greater presence because of the flames that also color each unit erratically.

It is difficult (and even unnecessary) to decide where is the best muffin in Andalusia, but is worth the search as an excuse to travel through Andalusia. There are families, styles and interpretations and ways of understanding bread in various places. The muffin is a good example, with notable differences in just a few meters and separate ovens with striking similarities in kilometric distances. There are references of processing in Antequera that reach the eighteenth century, although each person consider theirs are best.

If you do not happen to live on the beaches of Zahara, a good decision is to divert to the north of the province of Cadiz in search of the beautiful White Towns of Andalusia. There await shady alleys, lime facades, colorful pots and original beauty as well as muffins. All its bakeries produce these breads.

In the 70s of last century, this county had five bakeries and a flour mill. For such a small town with only 4,000 inhabitants, it had so much competition. They can also be taken with Iberian pork and even dare with sausage from a copper with tomato.

To complete a round the world trip of muffin, we return to the region of Antequera to pass through Archidona, where it is common to make them circular. It is worth making a final stop in Villanueva del Trabuco, a village of 5,000 inhabitants surrounded by nature and some amazing limestone mountains 30 kilometers from Antequera.

Along the way they have been some other bakeries where you can know the secrets to make good this bread, but there is a storm that is approaching. So there is reason to return to Andalusia or to continue discovering their relatives in Badajoz, Galicia and other lands from the country. Any reason is good for traveling.

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Kalyan Panja
Kalyan Panja is a photographer and a travel writer sharing stories and experiences through photographs and words