Cuenca cooking class & Ecuadorian bread recipe

Rodillas de Cristo fresh out of the oven!

One of my favorite things about Cuenca is the smell of fresh bread on every corner. Bakeries in Cuenca are about as common as Starbucks in San Francisco. A typical bakery has a mouth-watering variety of rolls displayed in rustic straw baskets – plain, or oozing with cheese, chocolate, or sugar. I finally learned to make Cuenca-style bread rolls taking a cooking class at La Warmi Cocina in Cuenca. This is what I made and how you can make it at home.

Types of Bread in Cuenca

Assortment of bread at a typical Cuenca "panaderia"

Assortment of bread at a typical Cuenca “panaderia”

I made three types of traditional bread rolls in the workshop:

  • Rodillas de Cristo (Enquesillado) or “Knees of Christ” – white bread rolls topped with fresh cheese, supposedly resembling a bloody knee.  Recipe below!
  • Mestizo especial or “Mixted special” bread – this is like the Turducken of rolls. It is sweet bread stuffed with salty wheat bread, which is in turn stuffed with cheese.
  • Mestizo cuencano or “Cuenca mixed” bread – this was white bread stuffed with green onions and cheese.

There are countless other varieties of bread in Cuenca. Each bakery usually has the typical ones, plus some have their own specialties. My other favorites are pan de yuca (yucca and cheese bread), and pan de chocolate.

The bread making process

Rolling the dough into little balls is surprisingly difficult

Rolling the dough into little balls is surprisingly difficult

We made all the bread “artesanal” or by hand in our class, which took 4 hours to make about 20 rolls! According to our teacher the commercial bakeries always use an electric mixer which cuts down the time to about an hour. Nonetheless, even the steps still typically done by hand were incredibly laborious – rolling of dough into little balls (especially the triple-stuffed mestizo de dulce). We baked the bread in a regular oven, although my favorite bakeries in Cuenca use the more traditional wood-fire oven (located on Mariano Cueva & Calle Larga). It really gave me an appreciation for how much work goes into one of the rolls that we can buy for 15 cents!

Recipe for “Rodillas de Cristo” bread rolls

Rodillas de Cristo fresh out of the oven!

Rodillas de Cristo fresh out of the oven!

This is the recipe for baking Cuenca-style bread in Cuenca (i.e. at high altitudes of 8,000 feet). It would need to be adjusted if you are baking at lower altitudes.

  • For the bread:
    • 400 g Flour
    • 8 g Salt
    • 32 g Sugar
    • 40 g Vegetable shortening
    • 12 g Fresh yeast
    • 40 g Eggs
    • 200 cc Water (warm but not too hot to activate the yeast but not kill it)
  • Glaze:
    • 1 egg
    • milk
  • Cheese topping (10 parts cheese to 2 parts shortening and 1 part flour):
    •  Fresh cheese either “quesillo” or “queso”
    • Vegetable shortening
    • Flour
    • Salt to taste

Weigh the ingredients for the dough in a machine about 10 minutes until all the dough sticks to the spatula in the mixer (or by hand for about 20 minutes as we did!). Make the dough into a ball and let it rest until it rises ~20 minutes.

Divide the dough evenly for the number of rolls. For the traditional size rolls, each roll should weigh between 60-80 grams. Roll each piece of dough into a little ball. Let the balls of dough rise for 10 minutes.

Flatten the balls with the palm of your hand, squishing them into a flat, round shape. Mix the glaze together (1:1 egg and milk mixture) and paint the glaze onto the rolls. Mix the cheese with the vegetable shortening, flour and salt, and squish on top  of the rolls. Optional: sprinkle the rolls with granulated sugar if you have a little bit of a sweet tooth. Let the rolls rise again, another 10-15 minutes.

Bake at 180 C for 15 minutes and enjoy!

The finished product! Rodillas de cristo, mestizo especial,and mestizo cuencano

Delicious! Rodillas de cristo (top), mestizo especial (bottom),and mestizo cuencano (middle)

What is your favorite type of Ecuadorean bread? Let us know in comments!

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2 Responses to "Cuenca cooking class & Ecuadorian bread recipe"
  1. momo says:

    hi. where did you take your workshop? I’m looking for a cooking school for a week visit in cuenca.
    thanks :)

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