All right, y’all, confession time: I’ve never really liked pan dulce from Mexico. Something about pan mexicano was always too dry, too frosted, too uninteresting. For years I’ve wanted to like the stuff, admittedly, because it is generally easier to find than Central American pan dulce (which has more rice flour, more egg, more cheese, that sort of thing–look for quesadilla hondurena at Compare! it’ll knock your socks off ((pick one that feels heavy)). So I went into La Loma somewhat hesitantly the other day, drawn mostly by the relatively recent sign indicating they now have paletas and helados. In a hurry to get in because it was so freakin’ hot I merely glanced at the handwritten sign on the door saying they also had tacos or tortas or something. Can I get a bleg! for someone out there to verify? If a panaderia is running tortas the sammich’d be made more awesome with fresh bread. Right.
Consider the spread above. I avoided the omnipresent concha (as it is called in most regions; a puffy round disc smothered in colored sugar frosting) to sample these delights. The oblong one was predictably the driest and hardest. A real dipper for coffee, that one. The large, dark one, bottom right, wasn’t quite as good as I wanted it to be, but it was airy and enjoyable. Bottom left is a nicely layered version of the concha. Not quite a Mexican cinnamon roll, but much better than the dry dinner roll taste of many conchas I’ve had (see bottom left of second photo).
Here the limits of my camera are evident, but I tried to show the spiral shape of the last pan dulce. This one in particular was a delight. It had the light chewiness of a good bread while maintaining the delicate textures of a sweet bread. The thought of even sipping my coffee between bites of this one never crossed my mind. Unfortunately it is the hardest to see in the above photo, but I really recommend eating a dozen of them–if you’re into that sort of thing.
Lastly but not leastly, is the helado. They were out of paletas but had about six different helados. I chose the one I knew nothing about. The baker didn’t know what it was called in English, in Spanish it is la tuna–like the fish, he said–the fruit of the nopal. It wasn’t until later I realized it was prickly pear. I’ve never had a prickly pear and can’t really compare the taste of it. It was light and really refreshing. It was perfect for the hot day, certainly better than a quite sweet paleta from LocoPops (don’t get me wrong, they do paletas quite right, though they’re generally sweeter than this helado.)
The folks at La Loma are from outside of Mexico City. Perhaps that region has something going on when it comes to pan dulce. All I know is that the place smelled great and the breads were much better than I’m accustomed. They make a french bread that I think would do a po’boy/torta right, for those who venture to do it at home.
Panaderia La Loma (2908 Hillsborough Rd)