Sometimes it's good to be flaky

A selection of cookies at La Poblanita Bakery. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)
Sometimes it's good to be flaky

By Eric Bradshaw

Local Mexican bakeries treat the sweet tooth in all of us

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.

La Poblanita reminded us of being a young kid in a candy store, tasting everything for the first time.
The campechana was crispy and covered me in flakes as I crunched on it. The jaiba de piña (pineapple shell, roughly) was also crispy, but with a sweet fruity interior. The buttery pan de huevo, or egg bread, made with an inside layer of egg dough and an outside layer of sweet dough, was soft and delicate. Finally I munched on the piedra (rock), which had a faint gingerbread flavor and a sandy texture. It contained cocoa, and there was fresa (strawberry) icing on top.

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

La Poblanita Bakery Inc
2411 N. Zarzamora
7am-9pm daily
Price Range: 40-50 cents
Handicapped accessible

DJ Bakery
1714 Blanco
7am-6:30pm Wed-Thu & Sat;
7am-2pm Sun
Price Range: 30-80 cents
Not handicapped accessible

La Popular Bakery
325 N. New Braunfels
Price Range: 30-80 cents
Handicapped accessible
the small bakery that is tucked into a retail strip across from the popular bar and music venue Casbeers. Carlos was talkative and in no hurry to rush us, and it was easy see how one could get quite comfortable coming here. Yet, the small selection of bread and obvious catering to mainstream San Antonio tastes left us feeling as if we were getting a fresh version of what one might find at H-E-B.

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. •

By Eric Bradshaw

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