Bread Illustrated’s Mallorcas: Sweet Puerto Rican Bread

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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.

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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.

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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.

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After some hand kneading, the dough sits for two to two and a half hours – then, the fun part starts: shaping.

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Yup – this looks ready

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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