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Cocol is an authentic Mexican bread that dates back to the arrival of the Spanish in the New World during the 1500s. The indigenous Aztecs were unfamiliar with the types of breads that were important parts of European diets at the time, and the Spanish soon introduced them to the methods of mixing and baking bread dough. Early versions of cocol bread were made from wheat flour that the Aztecs initially did not use for their own meals but instead processed to feed the growing numbers of Spanish soldiers. Cocol bread has the distinction of being the oldest bread recipe in Mexico due to this meeting of the Aztec and Spanish cultures.
Some of the first cocol ingredients were simply water, wheat flour, and eggs. A later recipe was developed to honor an exiled Catholic priest named Father Miguel Pro who had such a special fondness for this kind of bread that he developed the tendency to sign all of his correspondence simply "Cocol." This recipe calls for the bread to be flavored with salt and sugar, as well as brewed anise tea in place of water. It is also one of the earliest sweet Mexican bread recipes that required the use of active dry yeast in order to get the bread to rise and reach the desired texture.
The process of dough-mixing for this kind of bread typically first involves combining the required amounts of yeast and flour. Many experienced bakers report that the best-flavored Mexican bread is made with the freshest active yeast possible, so newcomers to this kind of bread-baking should generally check the yeast expiration dates prior to purchasing. Once these dry ingredients are blended, the cooled anise tea is mixed in. The eggs are usually beaten into the dough last, and the bread dough is then kneaded until it reaches the required thickness. The average recipe for this sweet bread makes about 15 cocol servings in most cases.
One characteristic of this traditional Mexican bread is its unique finished shape. A rhombus-shaped loaf usually has four sides that may be equal or slightly elongated, depending on the baker's preferences. Cocol's shape helps distinguish this recipe from other types of Mexican breads, such as the round picon or the crescent-shaped bigote. This bread is often a favorite fresh-baked choice at family-owned authentic Mexican bakeries known as panaderias.
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