A week ago when I visited the Magic Market I talked to many people and tasted yummy food and sweets.
The Magic Market is located in Puerto Magico, a huge cruise ship port, and I saw many different booths, all unique in their own way. As I was exploring the market I decided to buy some homemade corn ice cream, and as I was paying for it me and my dad noticed a small booth to the side of us. We decided to check it out, and we were glad we did.
The booth was run by a young, engaged couple, Mario Ramos and Irma Felix. They both had large smiles on their face, almost as large as the fresh bread all over their stand. But, it wasn’t regular bread, it was sourdough. Sourdough is rare to find here in Puerto Vallarta, and my dad was excited. Mario spoke perfect english, so my dad easily communicated with him. They talked for a long time about bread, about PV and it’s amazing views, sandy beaches, etc, and about the Magic Market. I talked a little bit to Mario’s fiancee, Irma, and it turns out she is an artist, and she made a very lovely drawing of bread that was framed and standing on their booth.
After some time we exchanged contacts and agreed to do a virtual interview. As soon as I got home I sent in the questions and waited for the answers. The couple got back to me rapidly, especially since they are so busy with work.
This is how it went:
Q: Where are you from originally?
A: Irma was born and raised in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico.
I was born in Anaheim, California and moved to Puerto Vallarta with my family when I was 6 years old. I have lived here in PV ever since.
Funny thing is that we met in the city of Oaxaca, but that is another story J.
Q: Did your family live here in PV?
A: Irma´s family all live in her native Culiacan, but come to visit when they can.
My family and I have been living in Puerto Vallarta since 1994. My parents were originally from Guadalajara, Mexico.
Q: Why did you start making bread?
A: The main reason is that we love eating bread. We lived for a summer in Alaska and were blown away by a local bakery that made amazing sourdough bread. The aromas and flavors got us obsessed with bread and it was only a matter of time before we tried our hand at sourdough baking. We definitely started for fun and the love of good, fresh homemade bread.
When we returned to Puerto Vallarta, we could not find bread that we thought was exciting. We began baking again so we began to raise our “Amelia” and learn the nuances of baking in a hot and humid climate versus the cold weather of Alaska. We devoted a couple of months baking for us and our family until we felt confident to share it with everyone interested in good bread.
Q: Did your family make bread or are you the first?
A: We think we may be the first in both our families, although both families know how to do some killer flour tortillas.
Q: Why did you choose to make sourdough?
A: Because sourdough is the purest and oldest way of producing bread as we know it now. It brings you back to the importance of those 3 ingredients and poses a question to the baker´s skill “What is the best bread you could create using only flour, water and salt?”
Not a lot of people bake sourdough in Puerto Vallarta and that has a lot to do with the climate, which makes it more complicated. We also wanted to bake loaves that were inspired by the best breads we have eaten, which usually were sourdoughs.
Q: What are the health benefits of sourdough?
A: At the beginning, it was all about flavor, but we quickly realized its health benefits, experiencing them ourselves. Irma used to get bloated when eating too much bread and suddenly that began to subside. We were interested and began learning more about the science of bread. I´ll share with you what I know.
Some people think that sourdough bread doesn’t have gluten in it, but that’s not true. What actually happens is that the long fermentation process helps break down the carbohydrates of gluten and other gluten forming proteins, making it easier to digest.
During this process, one of the bacteria that develop naturally is lactobacilli, a well-known friendly bacteria that protects the stomach linings.
The main benefits are for digestion and the fact that it does not have preservatives. The fermentation process also makes available a higher amount of protein and minerals.
When eating sourdough bread, the sugar in the blood rises at a more steady and even pace instead of rapidly causing a blood sugar spike like other commercial breads.
Q: Where did you get your starter from?
A: We made it ourselves. I’m going to tell you our first attempt, back in Alaska. We tried to do it with grapes,flour and water and it turned out to be a disaster.
We started repeatedly over a couple of weeks after. This time we combined flour and water and let it do its thing. It worked!
When we moved back to Puerto Vallarta, we decided to have our own local pata salada starter, and that’s how “Amelia” (our starter) was born and has been with us since October of last year.
Q: What kind of ingredients do you use to make bread?
A: It all comes down to wheat flour (that we source from Mexico), good quality water and fine sea salt. We can add different ingredients, like in our multigrain or our Kalamata sourdough, and play a little with the kinds of flours: rye, semolina and whole wheat.
Q: Are your ingredients local or not?
A: We buy all of our produce, seeds, nuts and spices from local businesses.
For the bread: We recently finished our transition from commercial brand flours to organic flours that are milled in Puebla. It was important for us to use Mexican ingredients and although truly local is what we want; the city of Puebla is as close as we have gotten so far. We also use sea salt from Colima.
Q: Do you make custom breads?
A: We do and we try to have special loaves every other week, using new recipes and ingredients and depending what is in season in the mercados.
Q: If a company such as a small restaurant needed bread would you make a large batch to serve at their restaurant?
A: Certainly! We already work with a few local shops.