The glass cases lining the walls at La Esperanza pop with pink, yellow and white frosted goodies called sweet breads.
There are conchas, donas with vanilla cream filling and puerquitos. Some look like thick cookies, others resemble doughnuts. They’re not as sweet as their toppings may appear, but they are a favorite in the Hispanic community when paired with coffee or hot chocolate.
“We eat them all the time, but I guess more in the morning, like breakfast,” said Mariana Campa, an employee at Supermercado El Maguey on Industrial Boulevard in Gainesville. “It’s sweet but not overwhelming, I think it’s just perfect.”
Supermercado El Maguey carries sweet breads that are trucked in from Atlanta.
“I would have to say the donas, that’s my favorite,” said Campa, of the plain donut covered with sugar.
La Esperanza makes theirs in-house, along with celebration cakes and other baked goods.
“We distribute to many other stores also, and other small stores will have a small cart and sell them,” said Vivi Carrillo, an East Hall High senior whose mother owns the bakery. “The most popular is probably the conchas — those are just a regular sweetbread.”
Many of the sweetbread recipes start with dry yeast, sugar, eggs and evaporated milk, but some sweetbread recipes substitute shortening for butter and use powdered milk or no milk at all.
La Esperanza offers other sweet breads like conos — a pastry filled with vanilla — plus cinnamon huaraches, orejas and empanadas with vanilla or pineapple filling. Some are filled with guava and the long cinnamon churros are kept fresh.
“The churros are a favorite with Hispanics,” Carrillo said. “Some even look like corn, called elotes. Everything is a little different than American desserts.”
She added that after you visit the bakery — which captures you with delicious smells as soon as you open the door — and try their specialties, you are like family.
“Whenever the customers come we become attached to them. It’s like family, that’s how it is here,” she said while carrying her baby brother around the store. “We’re very welcoming.”
The large, colorful conchas jump out at customers as they pass the glass cases. They are as big as an outstretched palm and resemble a sea shell. Their puffed tops are coated with colored sugar and sometimes cinnamon.
Noe Covarrubias, manager at Carniceria Tapatia in Gainesville, said conchas are the most popular sweet breads at his store because they bring back memories of childhood.
“Everybody has them with coffee and milk in the morning,” he said. “When I was a kid my grandmother would get them in the morning and would give them to me with chocolate milk.”