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Sunday, January 30, 2022

Panecillos de San Antón (Saint Anthony Buns)

San Antón rolls with the characteristic shape

Panecillos de San Antón (Saint Anthony Buns), also called panecillos del santo (Saint's Buns) are a type of sweet bread that is offered in Madrid pastry shops on dates close to the celebration of San Antonio Abad (Anthony the Great), held on January 17. As a general rule, they are frequently found in pastry shops near the Iglesia de San Antón (Church of San Antón, annexed to the Pious Schools). Already in the 19th century, these buns were very common in the pilgrimages of the Saint, called Las Vueltas de San Antón the turns or Tours of San Antón. They are one of the most typical cakes in the windows of Madrid pastry shops after Christmas, but look very reminiscent of Easter's Hot Cross Buns. 

Ingredients (for 20 buns):

– 2 eggs
– 150 gr. of sugar
– the zest of a lemon
– 125 ml. olive oil
– 250 ml. milk
– 500 gr. flour
– Half an envelope of yeast
Anise (you have to follow the dosage of the brand you use)

Method

Mix a whole egg and an egg white (reserve the remaining yolk) with the sugar, the lemon zest and the oil. Then add the milk and the anise.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour with the yeast and then add the dry ingredients to the wet.

Knead well to obtain a homogeneous mass that does not stick too much to the hands.

If it is still sticking, you can add a little flour until the dough is in one piece.

To form the buns, take pinches of the dough and make medium-sized balls that are then flattened with the palm of my hand. Place on an oven tray lined with parchment paper, leaving space between them.

With the tip of a knife or similar utensil, make a cross in the top of each bun. To facilitate this task, first dip the tip of the knife into oil.

Before baking, brush the buns with beaten egg yolk (that was previously reserved).

When baking them, it is recommended to first put them at 50 ºC until they have doubled their volume (with a glass of water in the corner of the oven).

When we see that they have doubled in size, we will remove the glass and raise the temperature to about 200 ºC and bake until they are golden brown.

History

The denomination is due to the breads that the holy hermit ate during his fast and the efforts he made to avoid temptations. On January 15, 1810, the Diario de Madrid announced that in the sweet shop on Calle Real de la Almudena «bread rolls called San Antón, very delicate and newly invented, are sold». The San Antón buns were advertised in the Diario de Avisos de Madrid, from the editions of January 16, 1830. 

The low humidity of the dough means that they can be kept for months. The life of San Antonio Abad has been represented by artists in two ways, one is in the form of the temptations of the desert and the other is the interview with San Pablo Hermitaño (Paul of Thebes) in which a crow provides sustenance by bringing bread with its beak. From the church of San Antón it used to be offered to the participants of the pilgrimage symbolizing the sustenance that both hermits mentioned during their interview. It is a tradition that these rolls, made in the bakery, are sent to the civil and ecclesiastical authorities. It is customary for the secret recipe to be taken out of the Church and taken to a bakery and for a few weeks to make the rolls, after the festival of January 17, the recipe returned to the Church.

The rolls of San Antón were also offered to the Saint so that he would bless the animals and protect them from the plague and other diseases. Being blessed, it is usually a popular belief that the rolls attract fortune and therefore are kept next to the purse for a period of one year. In the same way, if you are single, it is believed that these rolls will help you find a partner. The coarseness of the bread and its ability to preserve for months, reminded us of long stays in the desert. In 1830 you could find marzipan rolls, yolk, mostachón (almond paste), lemon, strawberry, sweet orange, sweet potato powder, anise, etc., in pastry shops.

The famous writer Ramón Gómez de la Serna on the day of San Antón in 1922 made a review of the sweet, thus commenting on various characteristics of the traditional sweet shop.

Characteristics

They are dough with a dry appearance that are presented in trays, they are usually round and of a size that does not exceed ten centimetres in diameter (or weigh no more than ten grams). A kind of cross is stamped with a mould that gives the rolls a characteristic shape. The iconography reflects this, frequently representing Antonio with the black habit of the Hospitallers and the tau or the Egyptian cross that came to be the emblem as it was known and that was generally represented on the tunic. It is also common to find representations in the buns of a cenote bell or a pig with a bell around its neck. It is common for the rolls to be blessed, which is done in some pastry shops. It is common to find that the rolls do not have any icing, but versions with different flavours have become popular. In some cases they were made bitter to play jokes on friends.

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