Just four ingredients that you may already have at home make for one of the tastiest treats in the Mexican pan dulce repertoire: campechanas.
Not all panaderías in Mexico have campechanas though. And not all the panaderías that do carry them have fabulous campechanas. In fact, I have found that campechanas sold on the streets tend to be the very best ones.
Campechanas are one of the things I look for the moment I touch Valle de Bravo, a small town about a 2-hour drive from Mexico City. I grew up vacationing there with my family, and I still go as often as I can. It is a town whose campechanas are of the finest sort. Very puffy and dry with the perfectly crisp caramelized top, they are sold in thin plastic bags by the dozen in so many street corners.
It is practically impossible to keep them whole once you hold one up, or even as you try to take one out of the bag. The moment you take a bite, forget about it: it has crumbled all over the place into pieces that make for delirious bites. Once you have one, you can’t stop until there are no more.
When we visit Valle de Bravo, aside from eating them right there on the spot, I always bring extra back home. I place them all in a platter and start by breaking one and passing the plate around. A minute later, someone else broke the next one… and then another and another. A few minutes later, they are all gone. I laugh just remembering how we pass that plate around. My father-in-law, I think, is the one who can’t resist them the most.
Although it is called campechana, as if from the state of Campeche, as far as I have researched, that is not where its name comes from. Though pan dulce in this style can be found throughout the entire Yucatán Peninsula, which includes the state of Campeche… Ironically, they don’t seem to go by that name there.
This is how easy it is to make them: thaw puff pastry, roll it out, sprinkle it generously with sugar, and roll it again for the sugar to settle into the dough. Bake on a buttered baking sheet until they puff up and then raise the heat to caramelize the sugar. In less than 15 minutes, you are done.
My only warning is: watch out for the sugar not to burn. It’s not too much to ask with as simple a recipe as this one…no?
p.s. You can buy your frozen puff pastry in just about any super market. They are typically of phenomenal quality. If you insist on making your own puff, see how by clicking here.
Crisp Caramelized Puff
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- 1 pound puff pastry store bought or homemade
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- Unsalted butter for greasing baking sheets
- All-purpose flour to dust countertop and rolling pin
- If using frozen puff pastry, thaw for 20 to 30 minutes before rolling it out.
- When ready to roll out, preheat oven to 400°F. Generously butter two baking sheets.
- Flour your counter, as well as the rolling pin. Roll out both puff pastry sheets gently to about 9- or 10-inches by 11-inches. Cover them entirely with the sugar, as evenly as you can. Then, roll again with the rolling pin, with the purpose of not making the sheets larger or bigger but setting the sugar in the puff pastry.
- Cut the sheets into rectangles of about 3- by 5-inches with a knife. You should have 12 chubby rectangles.
- Place the campechanas on the baking sheets. Position rack in the upper third of the oven. One batch at a time, bake for 7 to 8 minutes at 400°F, then raise the oven temperature to 500°F and bake for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Just until all sugar has melted and caramelized. Don’t let any extra minutes go by, or the caramel will burn and turn bitter.
- Repeat with the other batch. Once cooled completely, cover so they will stay crisp.