Victoriano Gonzales: Ayacucho Chapla bread is baked in a colonial wood-fired oven
There are two things for which a tourist can stay in Ayacucho, or at least that was my impression: If they want to be an artist, they stay to learn from the master craftsmen like with Límaco’s family in Quinua district, next to the historical Pampa de Ayacucho, and if they want to master the bread movements, they move because of the master bakers.
By Fabiola Gálvez
I was walking around looking for the famous traditional wood-fired ovens in the center of the old Huamanga, as its local residents continue calling it, despite Ayacucho is the current name of the city. When I was going to give up, the 9 de diciembre Street, number 143 appeared, half a block from the Plaza Mayor.
It was under my nose, hidden under the red colonial door with the label of the 2-star “Hostal Marcos”. Well known to local people, but for the foreigner, it is a discovery.
It is a long and narrow alley, full of signs and with a lot of firewood aside. Suddenly I began to smell the bread, the smoke, the flour. The oven was on, and the golden and warm chapla bread was already coming out.
I am in front of one of the oldest ovens in Ayacucho, with 400 years of history, “from the time when the Spaniards came, they brought the wheat,” said Victoriano Gonzales, owner of the oven, sitting on his little table and waiting for customers.
That may be why its resemblance to Arabic bread because when the Spaniards arrived they came with the Moriscos, in any case, they are not the same. Mr. Victoriano’s chapla bread continues to maintain the same centennial recipe, made with: Huamanga wheat flour, natural yeast and with the remains of chicha de jora (corn beer). The whole process is done manually, just as Victoriano’s previous 4 generations did.
It seems that it is heavy, one of the bakers brings a wooden iron loaded with about 70 doughs per layer already settled and in a circular shape, they are put in a row and covered by a white cotton cloth that separates about 5 layers. They are working the second and last baked of the day.
The baker uncovers the doughs and with dexterity and skill he takes a portion of the dough, which he barely touches with his fingers, and with the other hand, he piles them up by placing his fingers like a ladder, so that it does not stick together.
I am amazed because I had never seen a paddle with such a long extension and short handle, of a single pale, about 17 doughs of chaplas enter. I guess that way it goes well to the oven’s bottom.
Each chapla costs 20 cents of nuevo sol, about 5 cents of euro. For a sol, you get five.
Chapla is the iconic bread of Ayacucho, with a soft texture and round shape, inside it does not have crumb and is completely hollow. Some people will say that it is good because it does not make you gain weight, but the truth is “that any sick person can eat it,” said Victoriano.
And it is ready, in just 5 minutes of waiting, the chapla bread made like 400 years ago.
“Tourists came and bring the chapla bread to other countries, they come to learn how is it maked, but it depends of water, wheat and wood,” says Victoriano.