Panaderias carry an array of sweet and tempting breads. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)

Panaderias carry an array of sweet and tempting breads. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)

Not ready to bake your own tres leches cake? Look to your local panaderias (Mexican bakeries). Also, Fiesta Marts in Austin, Houston and Dallas carry a crowd-pleasing tres leches for sale by the slice or whole cakes in various sizes.

Other panaderia offerings to look for and enjoy include bolillos (personal-sized white bread rolls), French-influenced cuernos (croissants), bread pudding, flan and candies like pralines and banderilla de coco, a popular coconut candy in the red, white and green colors of the Mexican flag.

Panaderia Hot List

The following are some of the most popular items at panaderias.

Pan de huevo (egg bread): A round yeast, mildly sweet bread with stenciled patterns of puffy white, yellow, pink or chocolate sugar topping.

Empanadas: Traditional favorites are empanadas de calabaza (pumpkin turnovers) and camote (sweet potato.) There also is an array of fruit-filled empanadas in a flakier (pan fino) pastry.

Marranitos (little pigs): Soft pig-shaped gingerbread molasses cookies.

Polvorones: Bite-sized cinnamon shortbread dusted in sugar.

Galletas: Yellow, pink or chocolate sugar cookies. Some come with colorful sugar spinklings, others with cherry centers. A favorite comes with cornflakes baked into the cookie and a cherry center.

Semita de anis: A fragrant and delicious anise-flavored bread. Just sweet enough to enjoy alone with a cup of coffee.

Be forewarned. The minute you walk into a panaderia, your senses will be stimulated by the impressive display and smell of freshly baked goods, and some of their most fragrant ingredients, like cinnamon and anise. You will quickly discover that the tres leches aren’t necessarily the star of the show. The supporting cast of pan dulce (sweet bread) can definitely hold its own.

Some panaderias, like long-time family favorite Arandas Bakery in Houston, offer trays and tongs for customers to grab their own selections. This self-help method feels a bit more adventurous, but don’t feel cheated if you don’t get a tray to fill yourself. Having someone grab your selections for you (like they do at another family fave Mi Tierra in San Antonio) will help you practice moderation.  Either way, you’ll walk out with a bag full of goodness.

Aranadas Bakery has multiple locations in Houston at 912 Fosbak, 713/694-1813; 8331-C Beechnut St., 713/771-3616; 9803 Gulf Fwy., 713/941-0100; and 11919 Eastex Fwy., 281/227-3600.

Fiesta Mart has multiple locations in the D/FW Metroplex, Houston, and Austin. Call 713/869-5060.

Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia, 218 Produce Row, San Antonio, 210/225-1262.

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