The traditional breads of Alcalá de los Gazules, especially the pan cateto [a chewy rustic bread with a thick crust] and the molletes de matalauva [soft rolls flavoured with aniseed] have such a good reputation that they are now made at five bakeries in the area: the Horno de Cuesta, Horno de Luna, Venta Patrite, Venta del Puerto de la Pará, and most recently, Gonzalo.
|Freshly baked pan cateto - the rustic bread of Alcalá|
In the Venta Patrite, where people make pilgrimages to buy the bread or enjoy it with the special stews prepared there, they use wood-burning ovens to make the loaves. It is one of the fundamental characteristics of the pan cateto made by Alcalá's five artisan bakers), a surprisingly high number for a town of less than six thousand inhabitants. But Alcalá's bread has become a tourist attraction and there is not a venta in the area that doesn't offer it in its breakfast bread-baskets.
|Encarne shows off a |
torta de pellizco
The Horno de Luna still makes loaves in a traditional wood-fired oven. The 2 kg loaves, or teleras as they are known, are the most popular. Once the bread is done, they take advantage of the remaining heat to make special cakes like tortas de pellizco, made with the same bread dough, or magdalenas gigantes [giant madeleines].
Gonzalo Rodríguez Armenia is passionate on the subject of baking. His father also practised the trade at the Horno El Mauro, which was famous in Alcalá. His three sons, Gonzalo, Manuel and Francisco Javier have joined him in a new venture launched in August 2012, re-opening the family bakery on the Poligono La Palmosa, just metres from the two of the town's other gastronomic attractions: the smell of baking now mingles with that of freshly made chicharrones [deep-fried crispy pork] from Embutidos Gazules, and the award-winning cheeses of the Quesería Gazul.
|Gonzalo with his wood-fired oven on La Palmosa|
In the Horno de los Cuesta, they keep the origin of the flour a secret, because it is one of the key factors of their product's success. They also add a few drops of aguardiente to the mix. They have a single outlet in Alcalá, in C/ Santa María de España, but many distributors buy bread there to sell further afield. Antonio and Jaime Cuesta Alberto founded the bakery in the 1950s and the family business is now run by Jaime Cuesta Tenorio.
In the Horno de Cuesta it is also possible to find the other treasure of Alcalá's breads, the molletes. These are completely different to pan cateto, with a pale colour and a looser, more spongy texture. They are flavoured with a few grains of aniseed, which adds a very special flavour. This practice is not exclusive to Alcalá, but is found all over Andalucia. They also produce molletes sin matalauva, for those who don't care for the flavour.
|Loaves and molletes from the Panadería Cuesta|