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Thursday, February 03, 2022

Pan de San Blas (Saint Blaise Bread)

San Blas (Saint Blaise)

The folks from the Mercado Municipal in La Laguna, via La Laguna Ahora, bring us yet another fascinating foodie story: Apparently, February 2nd, La Candelaria, today, February 3rdSan Blas (Saint Blaise) and two days later Santa Águeda (Agatha of Sicily), are dates, which together, in the folklore of the Iberian Peninsula, are related to the end of winter that heralds the rebirth of life in the countryside, which the church transformed into festivals for Christian saints. And there is no party that escapes celebration with food.

So we come to San Blas Bread, which has no effect if it is not distributed.

Tradition has it that San Blas saved a child from choking on a fish bone that was stuck in his throat. The the character was a doctor - in addition to being a bishop and dying a martyr - and it's possible that he knew how to extract the bone from the child's throat and prescribe some remedies to reduce the infection and fever. Since sore throats were and are so common, especially in children, and without penicillin one had to rely heavily on miracles, his popularity spread rapidly in both the Eastern and Western churches.

The bread that bears the name of San Blas is prepared, a kind of bun, which is distributed among family and friends in order to work the miracle of curing or preventing throat infections in whoever eats it after praying an Our Father (Lord's Prayer), and provided that it has been blessed beforehand at the mass that is celebrated in honor of San Blas. All this superstitious ritual is already being forgotten and only in certain houses the custom remains of making San Blas bread and distributing it among the relatives.

Apparently it's a very bland and unappetising bun, so reproducing the old recipe is only to prevent it from ending up in oblivion. In case someone dares to make the Pan de San Blas (Saint Blaise Bread), here is the recipe.

500 grams of strong flour
1dl olive oil
150ml of whole milk
50 grams of fresh yeast
1/2 teaspoon of salt 
4 egg yolks
150 grams of sugar for the dough and 50 gr. more for dusting buns
the grated rind of a lemon

Warm the milk and dissolve the yeast in it.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites, reserving at least one of the latter to brush before putting the buns in the oven.

Put the egg yolks, oil, lemon zest and sugar in a large bowl and mix well with a whisk or fork. Then add the milk with the yeast. Once all this is mixed, pour in the flour and salt and knead until you get a homogeneous and compact dough that allows you to form balls, 5 cm in diameter, more or less. Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.

Knead again a little and place the balls, separated from each other so they have space as they grow, on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and keep them at 50º for a long time so that they rise and increase in size.

When they have reached the right rise, increasing their initial volume by at least a third, brush with the egg white and sprinkle with a little sugar. Raise the oven temperature to 180º and cook until golden brown, 12-15 minutes more or less.

There are variations on this recipe, adding anise or substituting the milk for orange juice, as well as a Pan bendito de San Blas (Blessed San Blas Bread) that appears to be typical of the Murcia region in southern Spain, its decorated form can be seen here and here.

Pan de San Blas (Via)