I love my book club. Not only does it give me the chance to read books I may not otherwise have come across, but it also provides a convenient opportunity to expand my baking horizons. Everybody typically brings something edible or drinkable to share, and my fellow book clubees are always willing to sample my latest culinary experiments.
At my last book club meeting, the recipe in question happened to be Mallorcas from the Bread Illustrated cookbook. I was most surprised to discover how many members had connections to Mallorca (an island in Spain) – go figure! Mallorcas are named after the Spanish island, but they’re actually a sweet bread that comes from Puerto Rico. The photo in the cookbook made them look like a sweet, fluffy cloud of a dessert bread, so I decided to give the recipe a go.
This enriched bread calls for the usual bread ingredient suspects (flour, yeast, salt, water), plus sugar, butter, milk, and four eggs. Combined, the dough becomes rather sticky – frequent bowl scrapings are must during the initial stand mixing stage.
After some hand kneading, the dough sits for two to two and a half hours – then, the fun part starts: shaping.
Mallorcas look easy enough to shape – in the picture, they’re just thick, fluffy coils. In practice, I found it to be a little trickier than I expected. First, the dough is split into two. One piece at a time is flattened out into a big rectangle, which is then brushed with melted butter.
The dough is then hand rolled into a yule log shape and sliced into six pieces. (Remember, the dough was split into to two – the process is repeated twice, yielding twelve buns in total.)
Here’s where it really gets finicky: each of the 12 slices is stretched and rolled by hand into a snake-like rope. I found the dough really resisted stretching, and the layers of brushed melted butter added a whole new hurdle. Once they’ve assumed their new rope-like state, each piece is coiled into a spiral – end tucked under, centre pushed in.
Despite repeating the process 12 times, I never really felt like I found my groove here. Some of my spirals ended up kind of twisted, and I have a feeling that my final product wouldn’t look quite as smooth as the Mallorcas in the photo.
After leaving the spirals to rise, I attempted to reshape a few – many required having the tails re-tucked. I think I attempted to spiral each piece too tightly – a looser swirl probably would have been a better idea.
The Mallorcas only require 12 to 15 minutes in the oven (I think I kept them in for 14). After cooling, the buns are coated with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar. The icing sugar should definitely be sifted – I found some not-very-appetizing photos online where it appears the baker tried to coat the buns using a spoon, which resulting in some funky sugar clumps. Incidentally, the sugar is a key addition. I sampled the buns both with and without, and they’re much better with.
My Mallorcas were not particularly uniform in shape, but they were delicious – as light and fluffy as I could have hoped for. They’re delicately sweet – a nice alternative to a heavy, super-sugary donut. My fellow book clubbers gave them two icing sugary thumbs up.
Evidently, the thing to do with day-old Mallorcas is use them to make some sort of grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich. I couldn’t quite convince myself to try this sweet-and-savoury combo, so I ended up freezing the few leftover buns I had. They thawed out perfectly and were delicious warmed up in the oven – mmmmm.
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