Artisanal home baking: local specialities

Local artisanal home baking is important in Santa Cruz de Turrialba. In fact, artisanal bread ‘pan casero’ and ‘tamal asado‘ baked corn tamale (a solid pudding-like cake) are local specialties very much appreciated by everyone in Costa Rica. They are usually baked in places where milk products and left overs from cheese processing are readily available. So, whey, sour cream, fresh cheese and sometimes milk are some of the ingredients used.  And Santa Cruz de Turrialba, one of the main dairy producing areas of Costa Rica,  is one of the best places to find several of the artisanal home bakeries.

Many of these bakeries are run by women, that produce their goodies for local consumption and sale on the local markets.  For some, this activity is a successful business.  And thus they are able to maintain their family and even some local helping hand.

Dona Vilma’s artisanal home bakery

It is Thursday morning. And in Dona Vilma’s bakery work starts early. Because, local artisanal home baking is hard work.  So, first she cooks the  corn on a wood stove for hours. Then, her daughter Mariana  grinds it  into a paste while adding whey water.  After this, Vilma cooks it again on the wood stove. This is the base for the tamal asado, biscocho and other products. To make tamal asado, she adds more ingredients to the corn gruel, like fresh cheese, margarine, eggs and sugar. Now her aid stirs it and brings it to a rolling boil. This is hard, hot and dangerous work. And when the thickness is just right, he takes it off the stove and Vilma pours it into molds.  Only after this, Vilma bakes the tamal in an electrical oven.

Vilma’s bakery is a success story.  She started 25 years ago, making just a few items per week on her wood stove. For the yearly cheese fair she started to bake more and more. Now her bakery bakes every day and her products are distributed and sold on markets in many towns of the Valle Central, including San Jose, Alajuela and Heredia. Her daughters work with her making and baking. But she also hires help from the local community.

While most of the products of artisanal home baking company are sweet. A few are savoury. So, the cheese tortilla and bischocho are savory and made mainly with cheese and corn.  And the pan casero, tamal asado and rosquilla are sweet.