Pueblo Bread, Fresh from the Oven

December 19, 2016

No Pueblo meal is complete without oven bread, especially when it’s pulled hot from the outdoor horno. Experienced bread-eaters know that you don’t even need to slice the loaf, just tear off pieces. Everyone pulls their favorite part: the crust is perfect for scooping up mouthfuls of stew, while the soft inner bread soaks up sauce from the bottom of your bowl.

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A woman pulls oven bread from a horno (outdoor adobe oven) in this photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Insitution.

At the Pueblo Harvest Cafe, our beloved Mama T bakes fresh Pueblo oven bread daily to serve as a side dish on the menu and provide wrapped for visitors to take home. From the classic recipe to variations like tomato, spinach, green chile, and cheddar, she does it all!

Mama T has been baking in an outdoor horno in the Pueblo of San Felipe since she learned the art from her grandparents as a child. For the last eight years, she’s also commuted from her home Pueblo to the heart of Albuquerque five days a week to craft huge batches for the Pueblo Harvest Cafe’s hungry patrons.

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Mama T of San Felipe Pueblo prepares a fresh batch of oven bread in the Pueblo Harvest Cafe’s kitchen this holiday season.

Whereas an electric or gas oven can simply be set to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, the traditional horno requires particular skill. For these mound-shaped adobe ovens, which Pueblo people have used for centuries, bakers light slow-burning cedar to heat the oven from within. They then moderate the temperature by spreading the ashes and cool the interior if necessary by sweeping out some ashes entirely. Rather than check a built-in thermometer, bakers gauge the heat by tossing oats into the horno: if the oats blacken, the oven must be swept out to cool further, whereas if they brown nicely the horno is ready to bake the bread.

Each batch takes about four hours from start to finish, including mixing the dough, kneading, rising, and finally baking forty minutes to an hour in the oven. Although the Pueblo Harvest Cafe does have several outdoor hornos to use on special occasions, they’re too small to accommodate everyone’s demand for their daily bread, so most days Mama T works in the kitchen instead. Either way, the result is delicious: golden loaves that are crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and perfectly suited to complement any main course.

This holiday season, you too can bring home a loaf of Mama T’s Pueblo oven bread to add to your family feasts! You don’t even need to leave town to pick up your loaves—just call the Pueblo Harvest Cafe at 505-724-3510 to pre-order yours now before they run out.

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Mama T shows off her labors of love: golden loaves of bread, hot from the oven!

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