I’ve noticed something over all my years of being alive-food unites people. I use to think it was just my family, however, I realize that it’s not.
Whenever I’d go visit my grandparents when I was little, they’d always want to feed me. A lot of our family interactions revolved around eating. My grandma and I would go shopping, and then we’d stop off at Carl’s Jr. and have a burger afterwards. Then, if I was lucky, I’d walk to Foster’s Freeze and get a banana split. Other times, we’d go visit my great-grandma whenever she was cooking tamales. The aroma of masa and spices filled the air, and whenever I smell tamales now, I’m taken right back to standing in my great-grandma’s kitchen. Food really unites everyone. You go to someone’s house, first thing they want to do is feed you. (Yes, I will take a piece of cake thankyouverymuch.) You want to hang out with friends? It’s only natural to go to lunch or dinner. I, myself, have had many a wonderful conversation around a dinner table. I’m telling ya, food unites us all.
The last couple of months my family has been going through some transitions. My uncle passed away in December, and a memory my grandmother (his mom) continues to share with me is that he use to always bring home one of her favorite sweets….Pan Dulce, that is, Mexican sweet bread. I remember once that my uncle was driving me around downtown Fresno, searching for the best Mexican bakery. I wish I had paid better attention to where we went, because the bread was so yummy! Shortly after I moved in with my grandparents, my grandma asked me to bring home some sweet bread. Hmmmm…Well, I only knew of a couple of places to find good sweet bread, and I wasn’t driving 3o minutes away to go to either one of those places.
Then I remembered a bakery that I drive by weekly.
I had been meaning to go inside of El Ranchito Bakery for a couple of years now, but kept putting it off. Once my grandma put in a request for some sweet bread, I took this as an opportunity to try a new place! Guess what? I’m so glad I did. If you know anything about me, you know that I love baked goods. Cakes, cookies, brownies, cupcakes, donuts. Really, the list could go on and on. Thankfully I’m at a point in my diet (for lack of a better word) where I can now treat myself once in a while. The funny thing about Mexican sweet bread is that it’s not even super sweet. Some of them taste like a roll, while others do have a sweetness to them, but not too much. This is nice because then I can have a treat that’s not loaded with extra sugar.
When I first arrived at El Ranchito, I was surprised at how busy it was. I also noticed that there is a Taqueria connected to the bakery. Some people were ordering breakfast burritos, while others were looking at the bakery. The bakery side looked as if it had been remodeled recently. Everything was so nice and new! Even the bread was lined up in an orderly fashion, as if to say, “Buy me, buy me!” The more I looked around, the more excited I became. There were so many different types of Mexican sweet bread. Not only that, but there are 2 cold cases filled with cakes! Oh my heavens!
Next to the register there is a meat market of sorts. So, really, you could make this a one stop shop. Buy a breakfast burrito, get some meat for taco night, and then treat yourself to a brightly colored dessert. Oh, AND, they also have tamales! There was this huge steamer/cooker off to the side filled with fresh tamales.
The prices are pretty reasonable as well. Look at everything I got for only $10.50!
Most sweet breads are .75 cents each. (My grandpa says they were only .5 cents when he was a kid.) Tamales are $1.25. I don’t remember the exact pricing for the cakes, but I remember that they are somewhere around $20, which is a great price in my book!
If you’ve never been to a Mexican bakery, let me tell you how to do it. To the right of the cash register there are trays and tongs. Grab one of each, and then help yourself to whichever bread you’d like. Most are labeled, but if you’re unsure, you can always ask. Some breads are filled, others are covered in sugar, and many are colorful. When you’ve filled your tray, take it to the register and they will bag it for you. Easy peasy!
I realize that there are many local grocery stores that carry Mexican sweet bread. However, what they sell are the same 4 or 5 varieties. This is why I love the Mexican bakery. There are so many options, and you’re able to to try something new each time. My suggestion to you….Pick up 6 or so pieces of pan dulce, and invite your friends over for tea. Some pieces of bread are so big that you can cut them up and share. Break some sweet bread with your friends this week, because remember, food unites us all. (And this is where I would insert a little pink or purple heart. I’m beginning to think in emojis all the time now!)
El Ranchito Bakery
417 W Shields Ave, 93705 (SE corner of Shields and Fruit)