Watching Jesus Felix mixing, kneading, cutting and shaping the dough for dozens of different kinds of breads, rolls and sweet goodies is a lesson in skilled consistency, attention to detail, complete understanding of what it takes to make bread products beyond good to the top of delicious—and that’s before the family’s unique style of baking even begins, which is another lesson in the mastery of bread making that has been handed down for six generations.
Jesus’ great grandfather, Rafael Vargas Vargas, opened La Tapatía near the old port 63 years ago introducing his own unique method of baking bolillos, the Mexican all purpose bread. About six years later he moved the bakery to its present location on Venustiano Carranza, the next street east of Luis Encinas. You turn east at the corner where the big new “La Luz del Mundo” Church is and the La Tapatía sign is just south on Carranza. (There is no street sign on that corner but you can see the La Tapatía sign.) You have to enter the bakery along the south side of the building.
Jesus still uses the original brick oven that contributes to the unique flavor of his baked goods. But, as rare as the antique baking oven is, that isn’t the entire “secret” to their six decades of maintaining a large base of loyal customers. The rest of the secret is in the use of the hard woods, mesquite and ironwood, to bake their breads. Of course, it’s not really a secret; it is just that few, if anyone, employ these difficult to handle woods for baking. Just to master the skill of using mesquite and ironwood for baking is a tedious trial and error undertaking even under a master’s supervision and tutoring. However, once mastered, the finished bread products are baked to an art-like quality with a flavor all their own.
Ah, but wait; there’s more to the baking artistry of La Tapatía. Just when you think you’ve seen the entire process, Jesus starts stacking the most recent hand-formed bolillos on 1 X 8 boards near the glowing mouth of his oven, still in the form of dough. These are always the last items on his daily baking agenda, which begins at 6:00 AM and ends with the bolillos at approximately 1:00 PM, a dedicated ritual Jesus has performed daily for 28 years and his patriarchs before him have done for an additional three and a half decades.
Just prior to transferring the bolillos about a dozen at a time onto a long narrow wooden wedge he uses to place them into the heated enclosure, Jesus readies an iron curtain a size larger than the oven’s entry with a small rectangular opening at the bottom, positions it near the glowing entrance, and with another wooden rod pokes the flaming nuggets into their final positions, extends his arm knowingly behind him, grabs a liter cup of water and slings it upon the fiery coals creating a massive torrent of steam and repeats the action until the vapor is bellowing to his satisfaction. He quickly encloses the steaming interior with the iron curtain and with rapid precision loads and shuttles the bolillos through the small rectangular opening and awaits the perfection of his artistry, whereupon with the same precise timing Jesus retrieves his golden treasures to spread tasty pleasure to all who have discovered the delicious difference the right amount of steam makes in baking Mexico’s traditional bolillos.
The Felix family live right next door to the bakery and you may see Jesus’ beautiful little girl, Vanessa, popping in and out after school.
For a distinctive treat for yourself, pick up some baked goods from Panadería La Tapatía from 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM. For a truly exceptional treat, arrive a half hour before 1:00 PM and witness the “bolillo finale” by the master himself, Jesus Felix. You’ll be glad you did!
This blog is powered by www.sonoranresorts.mx, Jim Ringquist, Director of Sales and Marketing.