Pan de burro
The production of artisanal pan de burro dates back to the 1920s. The name comes from the way that the product was wrapped and transported from the bakeries (or panburrerías) to where they were eaten: on the backs of mules. This was the preferred product of mule-drivers, and in fact was known for its good flavor but mainly because it could be carried on long journeys without being ruined.
To make this bread, flour, water and sourdough are mixed in a wooden kneading trough, to which sugar, panela, butter, salt or various seeds are added, depending on what kind of bread is to be made. The dough is left to sit for about a day, after which the bread is formed by hand and each loaf is pressed with the image of a donkey. The bread is then left to sit for about three hours on the floor, covered with mats. Before placing it in the wood oven, a small cut is made in the center of each loaf of bread so as to let air flow through it and avoid breakage during cooking, which lasts between 25 and 30 minutes at a temperature of about 300 degrees. When the bread is cooked, it is taken out of the oven and placed back on the mats on the floor to cool. The loaves are then brushed with a cloth to remove any excess ashes.
Some people still consume this bread just like in the past, filled with beans and accompanied by atole (a popular drink). Pan de burro is also placed on the altar on the Day of the Dead, prepared in the variant that requires only flour and water (symbol of the soul’s purity).
This product is also used in a traditional dance, the San José Miahuatlán, in which women and men dance with baskets of bread that are then thrown to the audience.
This product is sold mainly in the “La Purísima” market found in Tehuacán, but competition from industrial bread is ever more intense.
Today there are only three families in San José Miahuatlán who still produce pan de burro traditionally by hand and in wood-burning ovens, while for the past ten years or so other producers have used machines and lower quality ingredients.