Puches : Part 2 : Puches or Puchas?

Cover Image : Puchas from the Panadería La Purisima De Silao in Guanajuato, Mexico

My last Post (1) was borne from a readers comment regarding tequesquite. Tequesquite is a natural mineral salt that has been used in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times (mainly as a culinary ingredient/food seasoning). It was mentioned in an historical document from 1844 that was a list of ingredients, and their costs, in relation to catering an Independence day fiesta (3)

  1. See Post : Puches
  2. See Post : Tequesquite
  3. September 16th. Mexican Independence day
The ingredient list for puches. Tequesquite is 2nd from the bottom (with anise)

Now in my search for recipes the main one that kept coming up (in both Mexico and Spain) was for a sweet porridge like dish made with flour, sugar, milk, sometimes eggs and sometimes not, anise (sometimes the seed and sometimes the liqueur). There were differences such as the use of blanco vino (white wine) or mescal but the main one was that none of these recipes called for tequesquite so the Post on Puches ended somewhat anticlimactically as it was tequesquite which started the whole journey and I’d mentioned it not at all apart from a throw away comment at the end.

To recap…

Now that we have reached the end it is somewhat apparent that we have not discussed the tequesquite in the recipe. Tequesquite is generally used in the same manner as baking soda and can be used as a leavening agent. It is also used in tamales to “fluff up” and create a lighter dough”.

None of these porridges (puches or gachas) contained tequesquite.

In the 16th century, a wide variety of of atoles, puchas or mazamorras were listed by Francisco Hernández (1) in his Second Book. Several of these types of atole was drunk specifically to remedy any health problem or to improve the conditions of the sick or convalescent; In addition, they varied in thickness and could be sweet or salty on the palate. According to Hernandez one of these types of atole was Nequatolli (or atolli with honey)(2). “He had eight parts of water, six of corn and one of lime. It was cooked in a clay pot until condensed or thicken. Added 1/10 of maguey honey. It was allowed to boil time needed to take consistency of puche or polenta Spanish. was considered perfect for healthy and sick; for the healthy chili was added”.

  1. Sent to New Spain in 1570 by King Philip II to research and describe the natural history of the region, to assess the medical usefulness of the natural resources, and to gather ethnographic materials for an anthropological history, Hernández was the first trained scientist to undertake scientific work in the New World. For seven years he gathered information throughout the Valley of Mexico, learning Nahuatl, recording local medical customs, studying indigenous medicines, and writing down all his observations. The result was The Natural History of New Spain, written in Latin, which consisted of six folio volumes filled with descriptions of over 3,000 plants previously unknown in Europe (along with descriptions of a much smaller number of animals and minerals) and ten folio volumes of paintings by Mexican artists illustrating the plants and animals he described.
  2. atolli or atole – a drink thickened with corn masa. It could be thin like water or thick like gruel. This particular variety used “honey” or necutli (nectar) which is the aguamiel (literally water – honey) harvested from various species of agave.

Hernández also noted that some of these atoles included tequesquite, “a flavoring that could be a substitute for lime in the process of grain softening”. Here tequesquite is noted as a “flavouring” agent that has similar qualities to the calcium hydroxide (cal) used to nixtamalize corn (1). This may be relevant in the above recipe for nequatolli. Using cal would create a liquid too alkaline to drink so perhaps tequesquite was the “lime” in the recipe. It is also quite likely that the lime was used to nixtamalize the corn which was then washed afterwards (per usual procedure) and the nixtamalized maize was then used to make the masa to make the atolli (the recipe doesn’t read this way though)

  1. See Post : Nixtamal

A Google search for “puches” and “tequesquite” yielded this book.

From a Rare Book Auction site. This is an 1858 edition.
I have seen also the 1845 edition (which puts it very close to the 1844 Independence Day fiesta in New Mexico mentioned in the recipe costing budget mentioned at the start of this Post.
(New Mexico was still a part of Mexico at that stage)

Auction 694, Lot # 128

CO – New Mexican Chef. In the form of a Paris/Mexico Dictionary : Librería de Ch. Bouret, 1858. 4o. label, 1008p. + VI plates.
“It contains all the procedures used in high, medium and small kitchens; the normal list of dishes that must make up the different meals, which with a variety of names are made on the day; the method of seasoning the dishes and arranging the different services of a table, and the most select of the arts of the confectioner, the biscuit chef, the confectioner, the distiller and the refrigerator with everything related to confectionery, finding in it all the important articles of the works of this class that have been published in Spanish and other new ones related to both Mexican and French cuisine, the latter taken from the Royal Cook, from the works of Beauvilliers, from the Treatises of Careme, from the Dictionary of Mr. Burnet, from the new economic cuisine and from Other authors.”.
Spine and tips worn.
Bound in hard cover, spine and ends in leather.
Estimated $8,000-10,000

Ten thousand bucks????? Thank the Lord for electronic PDF’s

The entries in the diccionario re puchas and puches.

This dictionary for the Mexican cook notes that puches (see image above Right – definition at bottom) are “lo mismo que gachas” (the same as porridge) but the entry above it “Puchas”…………

Now…..the puchas are listed as being (1) “Donut-shaped biscuits, light and not very sweet, suitable for drinking wine or chocolate with them. There are puchas bathed in sugar and without bathing”(2).

  1. Puchas. Bizcochos en forma de rosquillas, de poco peso y poco dulce, propios para tomar con ellos vino o chocolate. Hay puchas banadas de azucar y sin banar.
  2. some are “iced” and others do not have icing on them

The Google Translation of the above pages

Common Puchas. (Puchas comunes)

  • Sixty-four egg yolks are beaten just as for mamon, and they are thrown into a powdered basin with fine flour flour (con flor muy fina de harina); Five ounces of sifted sugar are added, another five of melted and cold butter, a quart of refined aguardiente from Spain, or half a quart of cane and another half of mescal, one and the other refined and not reduced, and a quarter of an ounce run of very white crusted tequesquite, in powder, stirring everything very quickly so that the dough does not cook, and adding the flour that is necessary, so that the same dough is soft and does not stick to the hands; being everything well incorporated, it is beaten a little and it is left spread out on a table so that it is aired enough, to be able to form the fists of the size that you want, cutting the proportionate pieces of dough; they are placed in tinplates, separated one from the other, and put into the oven to cook, which must be somewhat hotter than for suckers (mamones), immediately covering their mouths; when the puchas burst, they are removed, turned quickly and put back in the oven to cook on the other side; being so, they are taken out again and they are thrown in a basket that will be prevented with a tablecloth, with which they will be sheltered until they are perfectly cold, to then store them for use. If you want to bathe, different bitumens (betunes) are made for this, the following being the most used; pour a pound of sifted sugar into a saucepan, and mix five well-beaten egg whites until they get hard, and a little water; it is put on embers and shakes a lot so that the sugar is well diluted; It is then emptied into a saucepan or basin (lebrillo), and it is beaten a lot, mixing a few drops of lemon, more or less according to the taste of each one; in putting on the shoe polish or very white bathroom; the puchas are smeared with clean feathers on one side and put in the warm oven to dry, and then they are bathed on the other side and put back in the oven. This bitumen is varied, mixing cinnamon powder at the time of beating with the lemon juice. Another bath is made by beating six egg whites until they are hard and mixing them with twelve ounces of sifted sugar, beating again until the bitumen turns white and shiny, which is smeared with feathers like the previous ones.

Some of the words in the text (as indicated in BOLD) were new to me and some of them translated strangely. After the recipe list I’ll go through some of them.

Now I skip over the Puchas from Huamantla (they’ll come up again shortly)

Puchas with only egg yolks without butter. (Puchas con solo yemas de huevo sin manteca)

  • Fifty yolks are beaten of eggs until they harden and mix four ounces of sifted sugar, one quarter of an ounce of powdered white tequesquite and half a quart of Tequila mescal or aguardiente from Spain, incorporating everything with the greatest lightness; then add the flour that the eggs can soak in so that the dough is soft, but not sticky, and the rest follow the same procedures as in the previous articles.

Puchas of whites and egg yolks with butter. (Puchas de claras y yemas de huevo con manteca)

  • They are beaten as for mamon, first the whites and then the yolks of thirty-two eggs, later they are joined and thrown in a trough or tray over four ounces of melted and cold butter, with a few drops of lemon juice; four ounces of sifted sugar, a quart of refined mescal and a little powdered white tequesquite are added; everything is beaten together until it becomes like bitumen, and flour is mixed as much as needed to join and so that the dough is very tender, following the procedures of the preceding articles for the rest.

Puchas de masa sobada

  • Put a pile of flour with a hole in the middle in a trough, and throw into it twenty-five egg yolks, beaten until hard, two ounces of sifted sugar, what can be taken with three fingers is salt, the same powdered white tequesquite, a small bowl of refined brandy from Spain and another of melted cold butter; Mix everything well with the surrounding flour, testing only what the egg can absorb, so that the dough is smooth, and separating the rest if there is any leftover; for this they put their hands in flour and rub with the palms the dough until it does not stick to them; they are cut and then form the puchas that are cooked and bathed like those of the other articles.

Cinnamon Puffs (Puchas encaneladas)

  • Thirty-four egg yolks and three egg whites are mixed with one pound of fine flour, beaten separately until hard, and then joined together; immediately add an ounce of sifted sugar, another of melted and cold butter, and a small bowl of good Malaga wine; everything is incorporated and flour is added if it is missing, kneading the dough so that it is not too hard or too soft; they are cut and they form the puchas, they are allowed to air out a little and they are immediately thrown into boiling water, taking them out of it as soon as they rise to the surface; As they are removed from the water, they will be covered with napkins or tablecloths, taking care that they do not stick, and once the water has dried, they are rinsed, placed in tinplates and baked; taken out of the oven after cooking, they are covered with napkins again, and when they are cold, they are spread with very high point syrup, mixed with plenty of powdered cinnamon; So bitumened the puchas, they are put back in the warm oven to dry.

Many of these recipes call for a cooking process similar to that of making bagels. The raw dough is formed into a shape and then dropped in boiling water. When the dough rises to the surface of the water it is cooked (like gnocchi)(1). The first recipe (Puchas comunes) is baked like a cake. Pretty straightforward really. All of the following recipes note boiling as the first cooking process with the final step being the boiled dough cooked in the oven (again, VERY similar to bagel production)

  1. Gnocchi are a varied family of dumpling (or possibly even considered a variety of pasta) in Italian cuisine. They are made of small nuggets of dough composed of semolina, wheat flour, egg, cheese, potato, breadcrumbs, cornmeal or similar ingredients, and possibly including herbs, vegetables, and other ingredients.

Now Google Translate is my go to when translating blocks of text and it presents several problems as the Spanish language is not the same (depending on where it is spoken) and this often creates gibberish or is unable to be translated as some “Spanish” words don’t exist in the Spanish language.

Lebrillo
  • Lebrillo – Recipiente de barro o metal, de poca altura y más ancho por el borde que por la base, que se llena de agua para asearse o para lavar la ropa : Clay or metal container, low in height and wider at the edge than at the base, which is filled with water to wash or wash clothes.
  • Hojalatas – (literally sheet/leaf – can/tin), tinplates = baking tray
  • Betune (betun) translates literally as bitumen (betunes) or shoe polish (betun) what is really meant though is frosting, glaze, glazing, icing, icing on a cake
  • Mamon – are sweet cakes (or rolls) sometimes flavoured with anise or sweet almonds. The word “mamón” means “sucker”, because (sometimes) they are moistened with a sugar syrup which they “suck up” or absorb. In general, to prepare it, egg whites are beaten to the point of nougat and the yolks, sugar and (white wheat) flour are added. In some cases, wheat flour is replaced by corn starch or pinole. It is said that in Oaxaca they called this bread marquesote in honor of Hernán Cortés, who was the marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca.

There was also one line that kept coming back and it confused me a little “se anadira otra poca de harina y se soba hast que haga ojos“: (add a little more flour and rub it until it has eyes). Eyes?? Por que ojos??? It was one of my knowledgeable Mexicana friends who schooled me on this (You should taste Kathyas conchas – no pun intended). She informed me that “They should be referring to the bubbles that appear when the dough is ready, If you don’t get those bubbles, it means that the yeast is not being activated yet”.

Ojos.

In the recipe Puchas de masa sobada we hit the term “sobada”. My work as a naturopath and my studies into curanderismo tells me this word means “massage”. From the point of view of a chef this makes sense to me as “kneading” the dough. Definition searches come up with this…..

  1. Sobar –  to knead (dough) “Hay que sobar la masa hasta que esté flexible”. You have to knead the dough until it’s workable.
  2. Sobada – massage – not kneading; to rub – the movement is similar to what a person does when washing clothes by rubbing it against a stone

This leads me to the differences between gently mixing a dough (as in making a cake) where the ingredients are mixed together (usually with a spoon or spatula) so as not to overwork the dough (or the batter). The other process is that of kneading the dough (as for bread making) where the dough is worked with your hands until it is pliable and smooth and the dough is allowed to rest (relax) before it is cooked. These are two quite different processes and each is listed in the recipes above.

Now…..lets go back the the Puchas from Huamantla (Guamantla)

Puchas from Huamantla. (1)

  • Thirty egg whites are beaten, leaving them to rest until they are thick. Separately and without mixing them with them, the thirty yolks are well beaten with seven ounces of ground sugar, and a glass of white wine, and then seven ounces of butter and a little ground salt are added. This, and not the egg whites, is added to four pounds of fine flour, beating everything so that the dough is loose; but if it is too much, another little bit of flour will be added and rubbed until it makes eyes. With it, the puchas are formed that will be thrown immediately into a saucepan filled with boiling water, and left there until they rise and float in the water; then they are taken out and arranged between two tablecloths to dry, and then they are put in the oven, where they are kept until their smell is perceived, which is the sign that they are cooked. When they are removed, they are spread with the seats of the beaten egg whites, mixed with three pounds of ground sugar.
  1. Huamantla (or Guamantla) is a small city The municipality is located in the eastern half of the state of Tlaxcala, in the Central Mexican Highlands. It has an average altitude of 2,500 meters above sea level. The area has a long indigenous history, but the city itself was not founded until the early colonial period, in the 1530s.

Now………. This recipe mirrors another “Puches de Guamantla” from another (1853) cookbook.

treinta yemas de huevos bien batidas con siete onzas de azucar bien molida y medio real de vino blanco: por separado se batiran las trienta claras,, dejandolas reposar hasta que las quede el asiento con espeso suficiente para poder untar o encalar las puches, luego que esten en disposicion como a continuacion se dire: despues de haber echado el vino a las yemas, se le agregaran siete onzas de manteca y una poca de sal molida, y echandolo en cuatro libras de harina de flor, se batira bien, debiendo quedar la masa muy suelta, y en caso necesario se le echara otra poca mas de harina, sobandola bien hasta que haga ojos dicha masa; y de ella se haran las puches; se tendra preve nido un perol con agua herviendo, donde se hiran echando hasta que se levanten o suban arriba, y entonces se sacan poniendolas entre dos manteles a secar para despues meterlas al horno, mantienendolas alli hasta que se perciba el olor de ellas, que es la senal de que ya estan cocidas, y se sacaran para untarlas o encalarlas con los asientos de las claras de huevos, a las que se le echaran tres libras de azucar molida

thirty well-beaten egg yolks with seven ounces of well-ground sugar and half a real of white wine: the thirty egg whites will be beaten separately, leaving them to rest until they are thick enough to be able to spread or whitewash the puches, after they are disposition as follows: after having poured the wine into the yolks, add seven ounces of butter and a little ground salt, and pour it into four pounds of flower flour, mix well, leaving the dough very loose, and if necessary add a little more flour, kneading it well until the dough makes eyes; and the puches will be made of it; A pot with boiling water will be provided, where they will be poured until they rise or rise to the top, and then they are removed by placing them between two tablecloths to dry and then put them in the oven, keeping them there until the smell of them is perceived, which It is the sign that they are already cooked, and they will be taken out to spread or whiten them with the egg whites, to which three pounds of ground sugar will be added.

This is obviously the same recipe. It comes from a book less than 10 years older than the previous recipes but the word Puchas is noted as Puches. Now so far I have determined that a puche is a porridge and a pucha is a biscuit (bizcocho).

I do love an old cookbook. The recipe below was discovered by a researcher (Ana Patricia Monjaraz Solis) in a collection located in the Archivo de la Provincia Agustiniana de Michoacán, the “Archive of the Augustinian Province of Michoacán” (APAMI). It is “probably” from the end of the 18th Century (so it’s a little older than the ones above by maybe 50 years) and it is quite a simple recipe that would be an excellent start if you wanted to try such a recipe.

For twenty-five egg yolks, they are beaten very well until they are very thick, they are added three onsas of sugar and they are beaten again and from there they are added a fourth of Mexican tequesquite, they are beaten again and it was based on a little of well-flowered flour, add three ounces of butter, added a corridor of mecal wine, mix very well until the dough is smooth, put it in the oven, not very hot, but regular

Anas attempt at puchas.
(these ones have been bitumened)

The following recipe comes from the area of Chapinería in the Sierra Oeste region of Madrid. It is made in large
quantities during the patron saint festivities of the Virgen del Rosario ion the first weekend of October (although you can pick them up at the panadería in the towns plaza anytime). This recipe, originally by chef Joaquín Felipe, is similar (although more complex) to the recipe above. The flour is enriched with almond and pine nut, it is more spiced and uses yeast instead of tequesquite as the leavener. There is also the interesting crossover with the citrus peels. In the puches (porridge recipes) the bread cubes used to garnish the porridge are often first fried in oil with citrus peels to flavour them. In the puchas below the peels are used to flavour the olive oil used in the recipe.

Chef Joaquín also notes in the addendum to the recipe that “In Chapinería and the surrounding towns, sweet porridge is prepared called “los Puches”, of Castilian-La Mancha origin, also known as “food for souls”, because they were made for the deceased.”

Ingredients

  • 500ml olive oil (extra virgin DO Madrid)
  • 4 eggs
  • 150g butter
  • 250g sugar
  • 1 sachet of yeast
  • 1kg flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 50g ground pine nuts
  • The zest of two lemons and an orange
  • 2 copitas of anise liqueur
  • 1 copita of pomace See**NOTES**
  • 20g cinnamon
  • 20g ground anise
  • The juice of one lemon and an orange
  • 10g salt

Method

  1. In a pan place the oil and the orange and lemon zest. Heat the oil (to extract the flavour from the citrus zest) being careful not to burn the zest. Allow the oil to cool and then strain out the zest.
  2. Melt the butter (over a low heat) and then add it to the (still slightly warm) flavoured oil.
  3. In another bowl mix together the flour, almonds, pine nuts, yeast and ground spices.
  4. To your oil mixture add the sugar, anise liqueur, pomace, citrus juice and salt. Mix until the sugar dissolves. Mix in the eggs, one at a time.
  5. Add the flour to your liquid mix and stir with a wooden spoon until you get a dough that does not stick to your hands. Add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky. Knead the dough until smooth and pliable (about 15 minutes maybe) and then allow to rest, covered, for about 2 hours.
  6. Roll the dough out on a floured bench to a thickness of about 2cm and cut out your biscuits. Bake at 180C (in a preheated oven) for about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
  7. They go well with a coffee, tea or pomace cream (Crema de Orujo)

**NOTES**

  • a copita often translates as “cup” (250ml). The Spanish-style sherry glass (called a copita) is about 6 inches (15 cm) high and holds 6 ounces (180 mL). In this recipe this would equate to 360ml of anise liqueur and 180ml of pomace (see below) which would be 540ml (9 shots) of alcohol. This seems a lot.
  • Pomace spirit (or pomace brandy) is a liquor distilled from pomace (the solid remains of grapes, olives, or other fruit after pressing for juice or oil. It contains the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems of the fruit) that is left over from winemaking, after the grapes are pressed. It is called marc in both English and French, but “grappa” in Italian and “bagaço” in Portuguese. In Spanish it is called orujo. Orujo will come up again shortly
Aguardiente de Orujo

Crema de Orujo

Crema de Orujo is a creamy liqueur made from pomace spirit that is reminiscent of Baileys Irish Cream (1). A nice dessert liqueur to sit and have with a pucha (or two)

  1. Baileys Irish Cream is an Irish cream liqueur, an alcoholic drink flavoured with cream, cocoa and Irish whiskey

Orujo is created with regional and traditional distillation methods from the residue that remains after extracting the juice from grapes for wine making. This material is called bagasse (or marc). The bagasse is fermented and then distilled. To this distilled aguardiente is added, coffee extract, caramel, cocoa and a milk base. This creates a smooth, sweet and unctuous coffee and cacao flavoured liqueur

This bad boy even comes in a party sized 3L flagon. That’s going to need a lotta puchas.

So. Short answer made long…

Puchas = biscuit

Puches = sweet porridge.

References

  • González Jácome, Alba; Reyes Montes, Laura. (2014)El conocimiento agrícola tradicional, la milpa y la alimentación: el caso del Valle de Ixtlahuaca, Estado de México Revista de Geografía Agrícola, núm. 52-53, enero-diciembre, 2014, pp. 21-42 Universidad Autónoma Chapingo Texcoco, México Revista de Geografía Agrícola ISSN: 0186-4394 rev_geoagricola@hotmail.com Universidad Autónoma Chapingo México
  • Galvan Rivera, Mariano. (1845) Diccionario de cocina o el nuevo cocinero mexicano en forma de diccionario .
  • Sarah Bak-Geller Corona, « Los recetarios “afrancesados” del siglo XIX en México. », Anthropology of food [Online], S6 | December 2009, Online since 20 December 2009, connection on 23 June 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/aof/6464 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/aof.6464

Websites

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s