Original Written April 11, 2015
Modified January 22, 2019
I have very special beautiful memories of watching my Abuelito, Pancho pack the BIROTE (also known as bolillo) rolls standing up in a basket. He placed this basket on his head and rode off on his bicycle to make his deliveries. I wish I had a picture of this fond memory.
Many of you know I come from a long line of family bakers on my paternal side. My grandfather was a baker, my father was a baker and this beautiful tradition continues today, with my family in Guadalajara.
My family has two humble bakeries in Guadalajara. The first my grandparents started in 1955. And, the second in Colonia San Rafael my father and his family started about 1969.
El Birrote is the foundation of Mi Familia-not the traditional corn tortilla. I recall them spreading the BIROTE with refríes beans for a delicious meal.
Birote Salado is similar to the bolillo however it has a thick, crunchy crust and softer interior which is more salty than sweet. Tortas ahogadas (tortas ahogadas are a hearty Mexican-style sandwich, made popular in Jalisco, typically filled with braised pork.)
Typically made with Birote Salado because consistency of the bread permits the sandwich to be submerged in sauce without crumbling or dissolving.
All of my fondest smell memories are related to BIROTE as if tasting a fine Pinot Noir with a broad range of flavors, bouquets and textures.
In order for BIROTE to be “good,” it must also pass the test of color, flavor, texture and sound (when you knock on it). It should be crunchy on the outside and elastic in the inside. Color must be just right. I so enjoy the smell of the yeast. I can almost smell it now.
Making bread is an art. Anyone can make bread, but to make good bread takes many years of practice.
My family makes the famous BIROTE from Guadalajara. As a child they never made sweet Mexican bread, they focused exclusively on the BIROTE. But, nowadays due to competition they need to make the more traditional sweet Mexican bread.
Together with the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI), BIROTE manufacturers are to file a Denomination of Origin claim to protect the savory bread. Should they win the classification, the name BIROTE could only be used for bread produced in Jalisco, just as only agave-based drinks made in this or certain other states can be legally called tequila.Similar to champagne.
BIROTE is produced almost exclusively in Guadalajara because the city’s climate and altitude give the bread a unique taste and texture that cannot be equalled in other parts of Mexico.It is thought that BIROTE’S origins date back to 1864, when a Belgian named Camille Pirrotte arrived in Guadalajara as a sergeant in the French army. Sent by Napoleon, the French briefly occupied parts of Mexico at this time.In a bid to win over the hearts and minds of the Mexican people, the occupying troops were ordered to teach them French culture and customs. Pirrote was in charge of teaching the locals to make French bread.
I recall being introduced to BIROTE as a little girl, of about two or three, at my family’s bakery. As I grew, and returned to Guadalajara with frequency to visit mis Abuelitos y familia. I recall helping Mi Abuelito make BIROTE (in retrospect I was probably just getting in his way.) But he never lead me to believe that. Mi Abuelito Pancho always welcomed me to play with the dough as a child. Bread is such a tactile experience and I enjoyed getting my hands into it! All of the children in our family are encouraged to start playing with the dough at a young age, in order to carry on the family tradition.
This picture above are Roscas from la Panadería de Mi Papa y su Familia, aren’t they beautiful?
Once home, I have always sought that color, flavor, smell and texture that was engrained in my DNA, as if on a life quest I sought it. And, since I knew what “good bread” was, I would seek out Mexican panaderias, here. Never quite finding it. Bakeries here just never measured up! I’ve had some beautiful artisan breads from California to Europe. For awhile, I got on the Acme bread kick, which was possibly the closest resemblance to my family’s in Guadalajara. It became difficult for me to acquire, then I got on a La Brea Bakery kick, since it was so-so and easily accessible. I must admit some of the French baguettes were phenomenal and took me back to Mis Abuelito’s humble Panadería Castorena.
I’m embarrassed to admit, I do not bake, only box cakes, and those are a rarity! I’ve always said, “I can cook, but not bake!
“Years later, when Hush Harbor opened in Atascadero, I fell in love with Donny’s bread. I think, his “starter” is one of the best I have ever tasted. It reminds me of my family’s BIROTE in Guadalajara, Jalisco.
Go out and treat yourself to some Birote and you’ll understand what I am talking about.
Abrazos y Besos