El panchón allerano
Versión inglesa: Jenaro Fueyo García.
Publicado en el libro: Andecha lenense.
A la memoria del profesor Juan García García
Pola de Lena 1991 (p. 51)
Apparently, as people from Aller say, panchón is a sweet course from that area. And it is probably so, since when in the few occasions it is served at tables in nearby towns or villages, cooks use to forewarn their guests bay saying: "I don'know what it'll be like, I was given this recipe by a leady from Aller".
We will offer here two different versions of that recipe; one was taken from the books in a time still distant from coal and gas cookers, let alone from microwaves ovens. The other one was taken from cooks for a long time settled in Aller, who have been able to adapt themselves to the new cooking instruments and techniques, maybe without forgetting at all those old and rustic ones, still homely, which used to hang around the fire and plates shelves in the typical Asturian kitchens, by the kneading furnace.
In any case, we will never be able to check wether that first panchón, roasted and smoked on the logs of the fire would not be tastier than the one now cooked with haste by stressed cooks in the microwaves oven.
The Asturian researcher Lorenzo Rodríguez Castellano explains in a few lines the slow and calm process for elaborating the panchón: "It is a sort of loaf made of escanda (cultivated wild wheat) flour which is baked on the hearth. The loaf is wrapped in chestnut tree leaves and covered with hot coal. The leaves are neccessary to keep the loaf clean from ash.
After seven or eight hours -the writer goes on- and because of the heat from the hearth stones below and the burning coal covering it, the panchón is already baked. When it is beginning to get cold, the crust is removed and then the bread is reduced to crumbs, which are later mixed with butter and sugar. Once it is all well mixed, it is left to cool so that it solidifies and hardens. Then you cut it into pieces before serving. This is a typical dessert for feast days". (Felechosa) .
The other recipe, from Aller women who even today have to roast the panchón with care so that the dessert of the village feast day honours the cook, must be different from that where panchón was baked on the hearth. Juanín's mother told us her recipe some years ago:
"To start with, put water to boil. When it is about to start boiling, add the escanda flour with a bit of yeast and some white flour too, to prevent the panchón from being too dark, thick and crackling.
To knead it, it is neccessary to do it by folding the dough inwards and making it thick; then you can add a pinch of salt.
When it is kneaded, wrap loaf in cabbage leaves without flattening it. Leave it to ferment for a short time and then place in a pot still wrapped in cabbage leaves, and place the pot in the oven previously heated. From time to time, turn pot round so that it bakes o n all sides, until the crust is beginning to get burned.
Then remove the crust and make the loaf crumbs while still hot. Then add sugar (appr. 1 kg for 3kgs of flour) and butter (appr. 500 gr. half of it previously boiled and half of it raw). If neccessary a bit of water can be added as well.
Finally heat a little on the cooker.
And now it is ready to be eaten; the hotter, the better.
As a conclusion, pachón from Aller isn't but another way of making use of bread, which is the name given to escanda in southern Asturian villages. It is also another sweet dish together with ("fayuelas, tortas , casadiellas...") all of them made with the only possible flour within the reach of old Asturian peasants.
Panchón was in fact, as it is still today, a delicious and much in demand bread for the annual local feast big meal.
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