Baking wasn't always an inherent part of tropical Puerto Rico. It's a culinary gift we received from the Spaniards during the 405 years we lived under Spanish colonial rule. For four centuries, ships brimming with imported wheat flour anchored in Old San Juan, and lard was extracted from foreign domesticated pigs to craft the rich pastries the Criollo population cherished. The cherished Mallorca recipe, too, came from overseas, surfacing in the 1800s during an influx of immigrants from the Balearic Islands.
Our cherished Mallorcas trace their name back to the Spanish island of Mallorca, where a similar pastry, the ensaïmada, was birthed. The term ensaïmada comes from 'saïm', translating to 'lard', a primary ingredient in the preparation. The incorporation of lard into the recipe came about when Jewish bakers faced persecution in 14th century Mallorca and altered their oil and butter-based bread to demonstrate their conversion to Christianity. It was these Mallorcan immigrants who established Puerto Rico's most revered Mallorca bakery, La Bombonera Puig y Abraham, in 1902.
The Baleric pastry traditions harmoniously adapted to the warm, humid climate of Puerto Rico. The strong gluten network in Mallorca dough can endure a robust rise under balmy conditions without overproofing. Over the years, the Puerto Rican Mallorca has evolved to cater to the local taste buds, resembling more of a brioche with its tighter, cakier crumb, whereas the Baleric version boasts a light, fluffy texture with a crispy exterior from the lard.
While Spaniards experiment with variations of the Mallorca, like a version with candied squash filling, we Puerto Ricans prefer the classic style, liberally sprinkled with confectioners' sugar. Fond memories are woven around workers at La Bombonera dusting sugar atop the Mallorcas to suit each customer's taste - for some of us, the rule was always more, more, more!
Today, the Puerto Rican Mallorca stands as a testament to our ability to adopt, adapt, and cherish foreign traditions, transforming them into something uniquely ours. It's not just a sweet breakfast bread, but a symbol of our resilience, cultural melding, and the delicious evolution of our culinary landscape.
Try our Chefzito Mallorca bread, a genuine embodiment of this rich, intertwined history and unrivalled taste.