Sourdough, time and a lot of patience. Three ingredients with which the La Madrugada bakery, located in the Murcian district of Beniaján, has sculpted the best panettone on the Iberian Peninsula. His sweet Milanese conquered the palates of a prestigious jury, who opted for this recipe among a hundred versions from Spain, Portugal and Andorra.
A distinction that exalts the mastery of Javier Moreno, the owner of the oven, who with a career of more than 30 years has managed to successfully pass the “most complex” preparation of the guild. “It is the greatest challenge of my career and of the sector, because numerous parameters have to be controlled and it requires a very high level of knowledge,” he acknowledges in front of his team of 15 people, to whom he attributes the merit of the award. “The award belongs to everyone, we have achieved it together,” he expresses with gratitude.
The seed of this golden confection was planted five years ago, when Moreno was nourished by the techniques of an Italian master: «There I discovered this pastry art. The first ones are very hard, they turn out badly. But little by little I have continued training, doing many tests, studying, consulting books, and in the end we have been improving the quality. That’s where his triumph lies, the one that now packs the venue and collapses the reservation agenda. “They are all exhausted, we even have a waiting list,” he confesses in the face of a maelstrom that he still does not know how to manage, since his production is “artisanal” and “very limited”, with runs of about 40 units.
A formula monitored to the millimeter
The best kept secret of this bakery is time. It marks the juiciness, the flavor and, ultimately, the quality of the bun. It is combined with the sourdough, “the essence” of the recipe, which must be kept at a constant temperature and fed every day with flour and water. “He’s like a baby, you always have to feed him at the same time,” he says.
Once it is at its optimal point, it undergoes a first kneading. A process in which flour, water, sugar, yolk and butter are added. The trick is to let the mixture sit for a whole day, until it triples or even quadruples in size. Not only does the clock rule, but also meticulous controls: “You don’t move on to the next step without checking that parameters such as acidity or fermentation are correct.” At the moment in which the tests give the green light to the preparation, a second kneading is carried out.
In this step, the flour is merged again with the sugar and the yolk. These ingredients add a touch of honey, vanilla, orange paste and butter. On this basis, “we can now add all the stumbles we want.” The favorites of this enclave are the classic, which combines raisins, candied fruit and fiber, for 18 euros; the one with chocolate, pear and caramel, for 20 euros; and the apricot with hazelnuts, for 20 euros. “I would say that we can invent freely, but everything has a formulation so that it is correct,” he points out about customizations. Next, it is allowed to rest and placed in paper molds that have a capacity of 750 grams. “It doesn’t all end here,” he jokes, “there’s a lot left to do.”
Rest is one of the keys to success. Thus, after inserting them into these containers, they should be left intact until the next day to ferment. Approximately three days pass until it can be crowned with a glaze and placed in the oven. They should remain there for between 45 and 50 minutes at 170 degrees. A cooking time in which the panettone “comes to life”, forming a peak that protrudes from the mold.
The curious thing comes in the final stage: «When they come out of the oven you have to turn them over immediately and hang them upside down to cool. “They are very delicate, if they are not placed like this they will sink.” They should remain in this position for at least eight hours. «The mass governs the process. It never has a fixed duration, it all depends on how it behaves, you can’t rush it,” insists the champion. An entire chain that has as its final result an artisanal and 100% natural product.
The gold worker
It is not the first time that Javier Moreno has been on the podium. He knows perfectly well what it’s like to return home with a medal: “We like to compete. In fact, I have entered many competitions throughout my career. Among his achievements are titles as sought-after as runner-up in the World Baking Championship, in 2017; Technical Director of the Spanish Baking Team from 2018 to 2021 and the famous Miga de Oro Region of Murcia 2021. In addition, he has elevated the name of La Madrugada with two DIR stars.
A repertoire of milestones to which is now added one as “special” as “gratifying.” Far from getting used to savoring victory, she faces each competition “without expecting anything in return.” “I thought our formula was pretty good, so we decided to take the step to have a jury tell us if it was really like that,” he confesses. He was right, he was not only good, he was the best in his category.
With the award just landed, cure your hangover immersed in new horizons. The first, Christmas, “the hardest season”, and the second, the imminent opening of a bakery in the Vistabella neighborhood, in Murcia. A forecast for the future that is framed in the panettone boom: “I go game by game, day by day.” Thus, the winner of the Iberian Peninsula faces “exhausting” days to satisfy an audience that already exceeds the border of Beniaján.
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