By Eric Bradshaw
Among San Antonio's numerous Mexican bakeries, La Poblanita on Zarzamora is one of the finest. Its large selection is gratifying, especially considering that at first glance the place is so quiet and dark it looks as if it might be closed. La Poblanita is well-known, and ancient compared to other local bakeries, perhaps a century old. Mercala, the friendly counterperson, showed us the flier from the 1923 opening, when the Botello family started their business, but she said it operated as a bakery before they bought it. In contrast, the concept of a Mexican bakery is relatively new. Not until the 1800s did the French give Mexico a taste for pastry, during the European invasion and declaration of Maximilian as emperor. The French were kicked out in 1862, and soon after Mexicans reinvented the word pastry.
Mercala was a gracious host, explaining the different breads and their defining characteristics, leaving a strong impression of the versatility and uniqueness of Mexican bakers.
On another trip, we tried the empanada de camote, a delicate, lightly iced pastry with a sweet potato filling. I was also intrigued by a cookie called elote, which is made by wrapping plain-colored dough around a pink center. La Poblanita reminded us of being a young kid in a candy store, tasting everything for the first time. We hope to return for the madalena, made of coco and paza, and the many other treats I have not yet sampled.
One weekday last month we chatted with Carlos Jimenez, son of the owners of the DJ Bakery on Blanco. We had discovered that a number of people I know frequented
On the other hand, we will probably pop up to the DJ Bakery occasionally, because the people are friendly and though they serve a smaller variety, their donuts are quite good.
Over on the East Side, just south of I-35 on New Braunfels, Sunshine Bakery was closed for a little summer vacation - a shame because their cookies are always soft and fresh. The small shop also makes wedding cakes to order. Fortunately, a barber from the shop next door pointed us down the street to La Popular Bakery where you can use cash or your Lone Star Card to purchase a sizable range of traditional Mexican pastries and American-style donuts, the best of which is the simple, buttery, pecan-filled sand cookie. They also offer a generous one-pound $8.95 barbacoa package on the weekends, a solid protein brunch you can follow up with the flaky empanada de piña, which will melt in your mouth. •
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