In Spain, molletes are a type of oval-shaped soft bun, usually served for breakfast. The bun is sliced lengthwise in half and toasted; toppings may range from just butter and a sprinkle of sugar, to jam, or savoury ingredients, such as a drizzle of olive oil, crushed or sliced tomatoes, cured meats, etc. In Mexico, the slicing and toasting technique was adopted for crusty buns called bolillos; each half would then be topped with nata – freshly skimmed cream, or butter (this last oftentimes applied before toasting) and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, or topped with savoury items. Eventually the dish of prepared bolillos with toppings became known itself as molletes, and the savoury version was further adapted to the Mexican palate by spreading a layer of refried beans after toasting, sprinkling with shredded cheese, and then returning the molletes to the oven for a quick broil to melt the cheese.
At chain restaurants in Mexico City, these savoury molletes became popular amongst students at a fast pace, being one of the least expensive items on breakfast menus. My first outing with friends in middle school was to a Vips™ (*see note), and we all excitedly ordered the “University Student Breakfast”, consisting of a platter of molletes with a side of pico de gallo sauce, freshly squeezed orange juice (which might have prevented the borborygmus from the refried beans!), and limitless café americano. I continued ordering this breakfast throughout my school years, even if I had a little more money to spend, and it was probably done more serenely as I grew older. To this date, if I go out for breakfast while in Mexico City, I just have to order some of these tasty open-faced sandwiches; one of my favourite places (although mainly for the ambiance) is the Sanborns™ located in La casa de los azulejos (4 Francisco I. Madero St., Centro Histórico) in downtown Mexico City:
Above, left – Detail of the elaborate facade of La casa de los azulejos (The House of Tiles); although the property itself might date back to the late 1500s, the opulent structure was mostly built around the 1790s, and later covered with tile work, acquiring new luster and its famous name. In 1917, American brothers Walter and Frank Sanborn sought the property and, after major restorations inside and out, inaugurated their store, tea house and restaurant in 1920 (still open, and now with hundreds of branches.) Above, right – my breakfast of molletes served on a trademark Sanborns plate. (photos taken in 2014)
Whenever I have leftover refried beans, I prepare my homemade version of molletes, which is basically identical to the traditional Mexican specialty, because, why disturb such a fond memory from my youth?
Mexican Open-faced Sandwiches – Molletes
4 bolillos (or other crusty buns, such as Italian, birotes, or even baguette sections)
3 tbsp butter, at room temperature
1 cup refried beans (try my homemade recipe, or canned)
1 ½ cups shredded or thinly sliced cheese (Mexican manchego, Oaxaca, mozzarella, Havarti, Monterey Jack, etc.)
Pico de gallo sauce, to serve (raw salsa mexicana, try my recipe)
Open buns into halves by slicing lengthwise. Spread butter on all eight cut sides. Toast halves, butter side up, in a 375°F (190°C) oven until golden brown. Spread a layer of refried beans on all halves, then top with cheese. Cook under the broiler just until cheese melts and starts to bubble. Serve hot with pico de gallo, and chopped serrano or jalapeño peppers, mixed in with the sauce, or served on the side:
*Note about Vips: There are, or have been, VIPs and Vips restaurants in different countries, not necessarily related to each other. In Mexico, the first Vips restaurant opened in 1964 in Mexico City, next to a supermarket called Aurrerá; the idea was to offer customers a place to eat before or after shopping. The concept was successful, and other Vips were established this way, next to other stores of the same chain. Vips eventually acquired its own character, with some locations independent from the supermarkets, while growing across the country, as well. In 1994, Walmart purchased the Aurrerá/Vips enterprise, transforming the supermarkets into Walmart stores, and later selling the restaurant chain to Group Alsea México – from Wikipedia
FUN FACT: The community of Antequera in Málaga, Spain, is awaiting the decision of the European Commission regarding their request to obtain a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status for their bun, officially “El mollete de Antequera.” (from “La opinión de Málaga” May 29, 2018)
¡Viva la Fiesta Friday #235! with Angie@Fiesta Friday (Happy birthday to Skye!), co-hosted by Mara@Put on Your Cake Pants (Happy blog-versary!) and Hilda@Along the Grapevine (Awesome wild-plant recipes!)