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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Exquisite Gourmet Rocks (aka Piedras) | The NeverEnding Story

Piedras, a Mexican Pan Dulce (aka Stones or Rocks)
Every month or so I join my friend Kimberly from Coffee and Casseroles in a themed post, and this month we're going back to the 80's again. Any 80's movie was eligible and I chose another of my childhood favorites, the 1984 flick The NeverEnding Story. This was released in the U.S. the summer between 3rd and 4th grade for me. I don't think we went to the theater to see it, but as soon as it came to HBO (or something like that), I recorded it and watched it as often as I could get away with it. Seeing as how I can still recite most of the dialog right along with the actors, I guess that was pretty often.

Back then I had no idea that it was adapted from a book. I wish I had, because I'm betting I would have loved it at that age. I recently bought the book, but haven't carved out any time to read it yet. From what I've heard, the movie covers less than the first half, so I can't wait to see what Bastian's many more adventures were!

If you're not familiar with The NeverEnding Story, it's the tale of 12-year old Bastian who not only lost his mother recently, but is also being bullied at school. One day as he's running from a group of bullies, he ducks into a bookstore. The owner lends him a book that he then takes up to the school's attic (!?) to read. He begins reading about a world (Fantasia) that is being consumed by a plague called The Nothing.
Piedras, a Mexican Pan Dulce (aka Stones or Rocks)
The young empress of Fantasia sends Atreyu (a child warrior) and his horse Artax out to find a cure that will save their world. Bastian finds himself connected with the characters in the story, feeling their pain, their horror, and their joy. He cheers Atreyu on as he meets characters like Falkor, the Luck Dragon and Morla the Ancient One, gnomes, a racing snail, and fights a wolf named Gmork.

In the end, when Fantasia is almost lost and Atreyu believes that he has failed, the Empress tells him that he actually succeeded, because he brought a child with him through his journeys. This child (Bastian) just needs to give her a new name. Bastian realizes that she is talking about him and yells out (quite imcomprehensibly, I might add) her new name* and is literally pulled all the way into the story.

There's so much more to it, but I'm going to assume that you've already seen it...or will immediately when you're done reading this, because it's a cult I'll leave it at that. The recipe that I made to go along with The NeverEnding Story was inspired by one of my favorite fantasty creatures from the movie, the Rock Biter.

Exquisite Gourmet Rocks (aka Piedras) | The NeverEnding Story

"Where I come form in the North, we used to have exquisite gourmet rocks, only're all gone."

"I know how it happened."

"I swear, it wasn't me!"

Little did I realize when I was a child, but the Rock Biter is a member of a cannibalist race called rock chewers. Not only do they live on a diet of rocks and stones, they also use stone to make everything they need.

This seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to try making a recipe that I've been meaning to make for my husband for at least 5 years (this is normal in my house). You can find these Mexican pan dulces called Piedras (in English, "stones") on the shelves of any Mexican panaderia.

Fortunately for us non-rock biters, they're named for their appearance, not their texture. The base for the recipe is actually bread crumbs, made from other types of day-old pan dulce, which lend the piedras their unique texture and flavor. You can find them plain or topped in sugar or chocolate.

Thanks so much to Mely from Mexico in My Kitchen for sharing her recipe with me so many years ago, I'm sorry it took me so long to try it. I've adapted just slightly, and I think they're almost an exact match to the ones I buy in our local panaderia!

Piedras (Stones or Rocks) - a Mexican Pan Dulce
This Mexican pan dulce may be named for its stone-like appearance, but it has a tender texture and tastes of piloncillo and the various types of bread used to make its bread crumb base.
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Piedras (stones)
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Keywords: bake dessert bread vegetarian Mexican

Ingredients (serves 10)
  • 4 1/2 cups (~475 grams) fresh bread crumbs made from pan dulce, sweet and/or enriched breads see notes
  • 1 3/4 cups (~227 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (100 grams) grated piloncillo
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or dairy) see notes
  • granulated sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well. Pour in the butter and milk and use a wooden spoon to stir until everything is well combined and you have a sticky, but firm, dough.
piedras ready for oven
Using a scant 1/3-cup scoop, place dough onto prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 1-inch between each one; sprinkle each with sugar. Slide the trays into the oven and bake until golden and firm to the touch, 23-25 minutes.

Remove to wire racks to cool.

To make my breadcrumbs, I used a mixture of pan dulces (conchas, ombligos, empanadas, and panochas), plus some Malted Guinness Bread. All of these contribute to both the flavor and sweetness of the finished Piedras.

If using day old plain (not sweet or enriched) breads to make your breadcrumbs, double the amount of piloncillo and drizzle in a little more milk to make a cohesive dough, if necessary.

-adapted from Mexico in my Kitchen

*The name Bastian yelled out was "Moon Child". I never understood him as a kid and didn't find out what he actually said until a year or two ago.
Exquisite Gourmet Rocks (aka Piedras) | The NeverEnding Story
More recipes inspired by The NeverEnding Story (movie and/or book):
The NeverEnding Story Podcast at Fiction Kitchen
AURYN Pretzels at Fiction Kitchen
Neverending Story Artax Mud Pie at Kitchen Overlord
Neverending Story Baklava Books at Kitchen Overlord
Sunflower Seed Cakes at Fiction Kitchen

To see which 80's flick Kimberly chose, head on over and check out her post today!