Mexico in my Backyard!

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Assistant Cook
Dec 11, 2003
Hola Cocineros y Cocineras!,

Soy Bill Aqui!

In the last ten years, I have seen a really large growth in "Panaderias",’"Carnicerias", "Tortillerias", "Supermercados", and
Latino growth in general in my area. For me, in my extreme study of "La Cocina Mexicana", this is a wonderful prospect, for I can buy just about any ingredient for my Mexican cuisine cooking, testing, and study. Very many cultural events and activities are appearing daily very close to where I live. I try to take advantage of many
of these cultural opportunities.

The "mercados" are starting to resemble the "mercados" I have visited in many Mexican cities and towns. So, lucky for me, Mexico Querido has come to me. The displays in the produce sections are a visual paradise. Bins filled with "cacahuazintle", "cal" in little cellophane packages, an abundance of dried and fresh chiles, piles of "tomatillos", "guayabas", "jicamas", "papayas", big chunks of "cano", "epazote", "verdolagas", "berros", "tunas", "pencas de nopales", "chayote de espinas", freshly made "masa" and "nixtamal", big giant freshly fried "chicharón", and on and on the visual.

Now, in the larger "supermercados", "panaderias" make fresh "pan dulce", "pastel de las tres leches", "capirotada", and a paradise of wonderfully shaped traditional Mexican breads.

I can literally wander around in these places for hours.

I wanted to post a neat little story that I have typed from the San Bernardino County Sun newspaper for you to enjoy!

Bakeries Heat Up for Mexican Holiday

Tuesday, January 6th, 2004
By Stephen Wall
Staff Writer

Growing up in Mexico, Martin Acosta never heard of Santa Claus. But he knew all about Los Reyes Magos. The three wise kings.

For Acosta and millions of Mexican children, it is the Magi who bear toys and gifts, not Santa Claus.

Each year on January 6th, the day of the Epiphany, a cake called the Rosca de Reyes is cut by Mexican families to represent the arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem to see baby Jesus.

While most Mexican families living in the United States give Christmas presents on December 24 or 25, a growing number are receiving their heritage by celebrating Dia de Los Reyes, Three Kings Day, with the rosca.

Bakeries in predominantly Latino areas of San Bernardino County were busy Monday preparing roscas for fiestas to be held tonight.

The rosca, a crown shaped sweet bread decorated with candied fruits, contains a small figurines representing the baby Jesus. The tiny dolls are hidden in the dough before baking.

Each person cuts his or her own slice. Whoever gets the piece with the baby must host a party on Candlemas, February 2, a church feast commemorating the purification of the Virgin Mary. February 2, Dia de la Candelaria marks the end of the holiday season in Mexico.

At Anita’s bakery and restaurant on mount Vernon Avenue in San Bernardino, Acosta was kneading dough for the first batch of the more than 300 roscas he expects to make.

"It’s a very beautiful tradition," said Acosta, a native of Michoacan, Mexico, who lives in San Bernardino with his wife and four children. "These are our roots and the things that our parents taught us. We are passing them along to the next generation."

In his homeland, Acosta remembers leaving his shoes by the front door so the visiting wise men could deposit treasures in them.

"One Christmas, the three kings didn’t bring me anything. I guess I was Bad that year," he said laughing.

Martha Maiz, who owns Anita’s Bakery with her husband Mario, said traditions such as eating the rosca are becoming more common as the area’s Latino population increases.

The Maiz family started in the Bakery business in 1987 in La Puente. They sold their store and purchased the San Bernardino location in 1996. Last February they opened a restaurant nest to the bakery.

In addition to the Rosca de Reyes, Anita’s sells Pan de Muerto, a sweet bread that is consumed on November 2, Day of the Dead in Mexico.

"When I first came to the United States at 19, not too many people were celebrating January 6," said Martha Maiz, who has lived in this country 43 years. "Now, most of the Mexican bakeries are selling roscas. The customs are starting to come back."

Veronica Camarena, Martha Maiz’s daughter, who helps run the business, said she stresses the importance of the holiday to her three sons.

"I do it because I want the boys to know where they came from." Said Camerana, a Fontana resident. They are growing up with the American mentality. The have Game Boy and Play Station. They watch television in English. They are becoming Americanized. With holidays like this one, they learn about their heritage and how Mexicans celebrate Christmas."

At Zamora’s Mexican Bakery in Fontana, Tomas Cedillo said he expects to sell about 100 roscas, double the amount from two years ago.

Cedillo, 22, said his favorite Christmas memory happened when he was about 12. It was the evening of January 5, and he was sleeping next to his younger brother in his hometown of Puebla, Mexico.
Suddenly, he heard a knock on the door. Two uncles he hadn’t seen in four years has arrived from Mexico City bearing gifts—the latest model remote control cars that he and his brother were dying to receive.

"I still remember yelling. ‘The three kings are here, the three kings are here.’ I couldn’t contain my excitement. It was the best Christmas ever."

Bill Gibson
Crestline, CA
"aficionado de la cocina mexicana"
I really loved your story and descriptions, Cocinero. I have seen a small section of your country and thoroughly enjoyed our visit, the handicrafts, scenery and especially the food. Fortunately we are also able to obtain the very basic Mexican or Tex-Mex ingredients in our supermarkets now and we often make use of this and then pull out a stack of Mexican recipe books and enjoy good food.

I have found plenty of recipes for wedding cookies, but perhaps you can post met the ultimate one. They are great favourites of mine.
Polvorones con Canela


Here’s a recipe from "Cocina de la Familia" by Marilyn Tausend
for cookies that are traditionally served at weddings. I have tried several recipes from this book with success.

Polvorones con Canela

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature or 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
11/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or brandy
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup finely ground pecans or walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (cassia)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Beat the butter in a bowl with an electric beater until creamy. Add 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and vanilla, and continue beating until light and fluffy.
Mix in salt and flour very gradually-a tablespoon at a time-until thoroughly incorporated. Add nuts with the last of the flour. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly.

Using your hands, form the dough into 3/4 inch balls. Place on a ungreased baking pan about 1 inch apart. Bake in a moderate oven about 15 minutes, or until the edges turn pale gold.

Place the remaining cup of sugar in a shallow bowl or plate with the cinnamon. Remove the pan from the oven and, while still hot, carefully roll the cookies in the powdered sugar mixture. Set aside until cooled completely and roll them again in the sugar, shaking off any excess. The cookies can be eaten fresh or stored between layers of waxpaper in an airtight tin for several weeks, although then the powdered sugar tends to be absorbed into the cookies. They also freeze well in airtight plastic bags.


Bill Gibson
Crestline, CA
"aficionado da la cocina mexicana"
Hi Bill - This sounds exactly what I was looking for. Thanx a ton and I'll try them out next weekend and let you know.

What an interesting story, cocinero. Thanks for sharing. I'm new to the site but absolutely adore Mexican cuisine. Luckily, I live in the Denver metro area with a large Mexian-American population so good restaurants and markets abound.

I use almost that same Mexican wedding cookie recipe for the holidays and everyone loves them. I think you will really enjoy them, maws.
Great recipe. What amazes me is how many different countries have a "take" on the traditional Mexican Wedding cakes. Mexico and Latin America have made many contributions to food and cooking around the World. Yes, Asia can thank our southern neighboors for chiles.

Northern California is starting to see more of an influx of these great things. I love being able to buy epazote, achiote seeds, and chipotles locally. Penzey's may not love me as much but I like to have the freshest stash possible.

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