BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Having coffee and sweet bread — un cafecito con pan dulce in the morning — is a staple in the Hispanic culture, and that’s why the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas is home to countless bakeries or panaderias.

At De Ayala Bakery in Brownsville, “there’s pretty much fresh bread all throughout the day,” owner Ricardo Ayala said. “So anytime you come in, you will find fresh bread.”

The bakery opened over 20 years ago and is just one of many bakeries that have built a close relationship with the community.

Since its opening in 1999, De Ayala Bakery has always been known for doing things the hard way when it comes to baking fresh pan dulce.

Every morning, Ayala and his employees come in early, working up to 12 hours to make everything by hand.

“It takes quite a while to mix the dough, prepare the dough and then bake it,” he said. “Then you still have to sugar it or if you have to ice it, so there are hours before you have the end product.” 

Ayala said baking traditional Mexican sweet bread runs in his family and is a special skill to have.

“My dad had started his business back in 1988-89, so I started in 1999. So it’s been in the family business for quite a while,” Ayala said.

De Ayala Bakery takes pride in making pan dulce the old-fashioned way.

“It’s a custom from Mexico. I mean, you have sweet bread in the morning with coffee and la merienda for the evening,” Ayala said. “It’s just Mexican culture that is very popular here since we are so close to the border.”

Besides taking pride in baking, the relationship with customers has kept the business alive.

“They get to tell you a lot of their stories. You hear them out and you try to support everything they do. They support us as well,” Ayala said.