Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.
Pratt Morales is a happy man.
Co-owner of the neighborhood New Mexican bakery, the Golden Crown Panaderia, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Pratt is in love with baking, with his neighborhood, with his life. “I have a degree in accounting,” he says, smiling broadly. “But I didn’t want to become a CPA; I wanted to be a baker.”
And he’s happily pursued a baking career for the past 30 years. In a modest 1950’s adobe style building, Pratt and his son and business partner, and a small staff turn out thousands of hand crafted biscochitos, a delicate, crumbly, not-too-sweet delight that’s become the state cookie. At Golden Crown, Biscochitos come in traditional anise flavor as well as cappuccino and chocolate. Every week, they bake up 500 to 1,000 dozen of the little hand-rolled, hand-cut cookies. And they ship the addictive treats, at $7.95/lb, all over the world. “It’s nothing for us to make 500 cookies a day,” he says.
Pratt’s enthusiasm for all things baked is downright infectious. “Neighborhood bakeries are becoming a thing of the past,” he says. “But I love baking. Loving what I do means that I’m scheduled to come to work at 3:00 and I come in at 1:00. This isn’t a bakery; it’s a lifestyle.”
Pratt celebrated his 70th biirthday baking in his massive, 80-year-old Middley Marshall rotating ovens. Out of those giant, fire-breathing furnaces come huge loaves of bread –honey wheat, black rye, guess how many grains, cinnamon raisin, whole wheat, white Pullman, cinnamon pecan, baguette, French, old style Italian, and his signature coyote howling at the moon green chile bread.
“Everything we make here is nutritious, delicious, and beautiful,” he says, pulling several dozen loaves of the aromatic two-pound green chile loaves from the oven. The heat is searing, yet Pratt wears a sweatshirt and doesn’t even look warm. “We have to put up with the heat because air conditioning would affect our bread baking. I sweat a lot, so I drink a lot of water. The heat keeps me healthy.”
Four years ago, Pratt’s son, Christopher, joined his father in the business, something that makes Pratt even happier. “I love being a father-son bakery,” he says grinning. He pulls down a photo of an infant grandson. “This is going to be my newest employee.”
He employs family members as well as young people from the neighborhood, flexing their hours around school schedules. Local baking students apprentice with him. “We like sharing what we know. Our products come from our hands, our touch, our love. We’ll give your our recipes because, in your hands, they’ll be different.”
The bakery’s signature green chili bread, which retails for $7.95/loaf in the bakery ($12.95/loaf online) is loaded with healthy, local ingredients – garlic, cilantro, roasted green chilies, parmesan cheese. They often sell 200 loaves a day and it’s so popular patrons order in advance. If you arrive in the afternoon without pre-ordering, you may go home empty-handed.
In addition to breads and bisconchitos, Pratt and his crew churn out cookies like New Mexican wedding cakes, tostada cinnamon crisps, pig-shaped molasses cookies, and lemon and apricot flautas.
They make a variety of fruit-filled empanadas and even New Mexican pizza with traditional toppings and roasted blue corn, chili, or multigrain crusts.
They roast their own chilies for the pizza and their green chili bread and have the blue corn milled at a local pueblo. “We’ve taken artistic talent, a piece of New Mexico, and turned it into something delicious,” he says. “It takes a lot of energy to do what we do, all by hand. We don’t want to get any bigger. We love this place just the way it is.”
Golden Crown Bakery
1103 Mountain Road Northwest
Albuquerque, NM 87102