Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pan de Mallorca

On a recent visit to Puerto Rico, I tried a little powdered-sugar dusted roll called pan de mallorca at the hotel dining room. It wasn't very good, but I didn't want to let that fact stand in the way of further exploration--after all, the hotel bagels were bland and the hotel croissants were soggy.

I discovered that some of the best mallorcas were supposed to be found at a little restaurant called La Bombonera, where they serve them filled with ham and cheese. So we made a little trek to Old San Juan, and found La Bombonera. I ordered fresh orange juice and a La Bombonera Special, which I assumed would be a ham and cheese mallorca (or majorca, I've seen both spellings). Alas, it was not. It was more like a club sandwich with ham, cheese, and egg. Pretty good, but not what I was looking for.

So when I got home, I searched out a recipe. Of course, the recipes are all different, and how am I going to know an authentic recipe when I see one? All I knew is that I didn't want one that tasted like the bad hotel version, and I wanted to use it for a hot ham and cheese sandwich.

I settled on this recipe, from seriouseats.com, an adaptation from A Taste of Puerto Rico, by Yvonne Ortiz. It's a super-easy dough to mix up, especially if you have extra egg yolks on hand, which I did since I made an angel-food cake last weekend.

It's a rich, slightly sweet dough, with melted better, egg yolks, milk, flour, sugar, and yeast. After its first rising, you shape it into a rectangle.

But this is when I started having doubts about whether I'd searched long enough for the recipe. You brush melted butter on the dough and roll it up. Nothing wrong with that concept, but the mallorcas I'd seen in Puerto Rico didn't look like a cinnamon-less cinnamon roll. They were flatter in shape, with a little knot on top.

These just weren't going to turn out like that. The recipe also said to put them in a 9-inch square baking pan. I could see that this wasn't going to give them much room to spread, but I did it anyway. I should have listened to my better judgment. The problem is that one's better judgment isn't always right. I figure there's only about a 50-50 chance, so I might as well give the directions a chance. Also, if there's blame to be placed, I'd just as soon blame somebody else's recipe than my better judgment.

I wanted a flat, slightly rounded roll, but this is what I got. Why didn't I spend more time in Puerto Rico stopping in at bakeries and sampling various mallorcas? I had a perfect opportunity to do scientific testing, and I squandered it. I can see I'm going to have to return--not for fun this time. Just for experimentation.

The first taste test was eating one plain--no butter, no sugar, no jam. no ham. Pretty good. I might have baked them just a few minutes too long. The outside was a little crisp, and I don't think it's supposed to be. (I'll have to check on that aspect in my taste-testing journey). Not too sweet, not too soft. I like it.

Next taste test (which I completely forgot to photograph): the savory ham-and-cheese mallorca. I got out my super-cheap Target panini maker for its debut run. Let me say that mallorcas and panini makers are not a match made in heaven. The rolls are too high to get nicely scrunched, but they did get browned and the cheese (almost) melted. Not bad. You would think the powdered sugar and ham would not like each other, but, surprisingly, they're quite happy together. And so was the cheese. (The Puerto Ricans used Swiss or American; I used provolone. The provolone was a better choice, I think).

Despite these not being my dream mallorcas, I liked them well enough that I'd like to experiment with different recipes. But maybe that will wait until I go back to Puerto Rico to walk up and down the streets looking for the perfect mallorca. Oh, the sacrifices I make.


Lois B said...

Beautiful rolls, Marie. It is surprising to hear that ham, cheese and powdered sugar go together, but I'd be willing to try it.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me Your off just alittle. Think Monte Christo Perfect.

evil cake lady said...

Exactly what I was thinking--powdered sugar and ham go perfectly well together in a Monte Cristo, so this must be good. Marie, sometimes we food bloggers have to take the culinary bullet when doing research, and I'm glad to hear that you are up for the challenge!

breadbasketcase said...

It surprised me too, although there are lots of sweet/savory combos that work.

Yes, like the Monte Cristo--although I've never made that one.

doughadear said...

They may not be what you saw in Puerto Rico but at least they look pretty and tasted good.

If it means another trip back for further investigation well then - bonus.

Jeanne said...

On the left hand corner just before you geet to La Bonbonera is "Mallorca". Great place.
If you want just mallorcas go to Paneficadora Pepin on Piniero Avenue. They have the Best pan de agua also.

Anonymous said...

Hi! i am from puerto rico and it was so wierd to find a blog with a mayorca post jaja so i just wanted to tell you that next time you come here you should go to PAN PEPIN. their mayorcas are sooo soft and delicious. mayorcas shouldn´t look like a cinamon roll... or be crispy.

Anonymous said...

Two words... PAN PEPIN.... there is no better mallorca in my island than from there.... if you want to have the best mallorca that's the only stop you'll have to make on your next trip to Puerto Rico!

Anonymous said...

See article on this confection in today's NYT food section!

Marie said...

I read the NYT article, which made me want to make this bread again!

Anonymous said...

La Mallorca restaurant in old San Juan has the best mallorcas. They have been there for as long as I can remember over 50 years. I just had some this morning for breakfast. I am originally from puerto Rico, but have been living in the states for 40 years.

Anonymous said...

No doubt about it, Pan Pepin is the leader in mallorcas! In my house, every Sunday is Mallorca day!! We have them plain, with ham and cheese (sometimes egg too), and we make french toast with them as well (calories galore, but soooo delicious). I'm dying to find a recipe that measures up. If anyone has one please hand it over.