Did You Know Texas Has an Official State Bread?
Part of being Texan is recognizing and understanding our many state symbols. Learning Texas history in school revolves around the state flower (the bluebonnet), state sport (rodeo), state reptile (the horny toad), state plant (the prickly pear cactus), and even the state large mammal (the Texas longhorn, naturally).
What may surprise even the most knowledgeable Texan trivia champ is that the Lone Star State has an official state bread: pan de campo.
What even is pan de campo?
Pan de campo, translating to “country bread” in Spanish, is a biscuit-like baked good traditionally made using a dutch oven.
Dutch ovens were the cookware of choice for vaqueros in South Texas, and eventually on chuck wagons across Texas and the rest of the American West. Pan de campo has also been called “cowboy bread”, in homage to the influence of Mexican vaqueros and Charo culture on American cowboys. It even makes an appearance in the Western epic Lonesome Dove.
What makes pan de campo special?
Pan de campo was cheap, filling, simplistic, and easy to transport when vaqueros and cowboys spent long days horseback. Most recipes include wheat flour, baking powder, some sort of fat (usually shortening), and milk.
This recipe from the Kitchen Wrangler covers the methodology pretty well. (And you can see the entire recipe video below.)
The goal is to combine the fat with the flour without melting or heating, much like when making biscuits. Preheating the pan creates a faster cooking time, which also forms a harder outer crust on the bread and makes it less fragile. Pan de campo is cut into slices in the pan and served like traditional cornbread.
If you’re as dumbfounded as I was that we even have a state bread, don’t worry. Governor Rick Perry officially recognized pan de campo as the state bread of Texas in 2005, so we’re all only about 16 years behind (me included). You can read more on pan de campo and its origins in South Texas from the Texas Historical commission here.