¡El pan delicioso! - Ana’s Mexican Bakery offers variety of tasty breads, other treats

Ana Reyes

When Ana Reyes began baking Mexican pastries in the garage of her Port Arthur home in 2002, she didn’t realize how popular her delicious breads would ultimately become.

“I would put the breads in my car and go out into the streets and sell them,” she said. “I wanted to open a business, but I didn’t have enough money.”

Ana and her husband, Alvaro, eventually would save enough money to open Ana’s Mexican Bakery, named after Ana herself, at 3426 Gulfway Drive in Port Arthur around 13 years ago. The bakery became so popular that customers would convince the Reyes to open a second location at 2570 Calder Ave. in Beaumont in 2012.

Ana is up early in the morning – around 3 a.m. – baking fresh goods for her customers.

The bakery offers various types of “pan,” as it is called in Spanish — everything from bolillos, crusty oval rolls that were originally baked in a stone oven, to several different sweet breads called “pan dulce.”

Each has its own distinct shape and clever name to help you remember your favorite.

There’s marranitos, pastries sweetened with piloncillo and spiced with cinnamon. The bread looks like a “gingerbread pig.” However, ginger isn’t traditionally used to make the pastry.

Conchas, which literally translates to “shells,” known for their shell-like shape and sugar shell pattern on the top, are one of the most famous Mexican pastries and widely recognized in the United States.

The ojos de buey, or ox eyes, are delicious dough balls filled with marmalade and shaved coconut.

Orejas are flaky and sweet Mexican pastries shaped like an ear and are similar to a French palmier.

And don’t forget about the cuernos (horns), which look similar to French croissants but are often topped with sugar or filled with cheese. Mmm ... tasty!

My personal favorite is the danés, basically a strawberry jelly and crème-filled Danish pastry. Not only is it aesthetically appealing but it tantalizes the taste buds as well.

The flan, a shortcrust pastry coated with sweet syrup, similar to a custard tart, is a popular treat, according to Ana. The caramel sauce that goes with the flan custard is made of cooked sugar.

Ana even prepares a traditional-style bread from her hometown of Cotija, Michoacan, Mexico called “aguacata.” Its shape is similar to a tortilla but a little thicker, and its interior has small pieces of brown sugar.

If you find learning all these Spanish names for pastries intimidating, don’t. You don’t need to memorize the names of your favorites. When you walk in, you can just pick up a tray and go to town, browsing the wide selection of breads and picking out which looks most delicious to you.

The tres leches (three milks) cake is a sponge cake soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream. It is a must try and popular with customers. Although there are ready-made tres leches cakes available, if you want one specialized or made a certain way, Ana asks that you call in advance — usually a day’s notice is good.

Be sure to try the coffee, ice cream and flavored waters, as well.