“Siblings in an ancient tradition
Who take time, temperature and love
And bring them together
To make something that brings people together.
You make more than just food
You make friendships. You make joy.”
~Thank You Bakers
According to legend, the city of Vienna, Austria has bakers to thank for its existence. Those legends have it that in 1683, Vienna was under siege by over a hundred thousand Ottoman Turks. After months of trying to starve the city into submission, the Turks attempted to tunnel underneath the walls of the city. Fortunately for the “City o Dreams,” some bakers hard at work in the middle of the night heard the sounds of the Turks digging and alerted the city’s defenders. This advance warning gave the defenders enough time to do something about the tunnel before it was completed. Just in time, King John III of Poland arrived at the head of an army that defeated the Turks and forced them to retreat.
To celebrate the end of the siege and the part they had in repelling the Turks, several bakers in Vienna made a pastry in the shape of the crescents they had seen on the battle standards of the enemy. They called this new pastry the “Kipfel” which is the German word for “crescent.” Vienna’s bakers continued baking it for many years to commemorate the Austrian victory over the Turks in 1683. It was not until 1770 that the pastry came to be known as the croissant…and you thought croissants were a French invention.
In the tradition of bakers throughout the millennia, Armando and Molly Martinez know what it’s like to get up in the wee hours of the night to get things done. They’ve been doing it for years at Dulce Capital, one of Santa Fe’s most popular bakeries. In 2022, the Martinez family must have decided they needed even less sleep. First they assumed ownership of Turquoise Desert, a tap room serving local brews and made-from-scratch food. Some nine months later, the Martinez family opened Dulce River Bakery & Cafe next door to the Turquoise Desert. Dulce River will eventually offer the same baked goods proffered in Dulce Capital along with locally made chocolates and candy.
Dulce River had been open for just a couple of weeks when we first visited. Our appreciation for Dulce River (and every other bakery) heightened with the reflection that their posted hours (8AM – 3PM) represent just a small portion of the painstaking hours it takes to bake the luscious goods on display in glass pastry cases. During a lengthy conversation with Molly Martinez, she confessed she gets up at 3:30AM to get to the bakery sometime after 4AM. She’s usually at the bakery past 5PM cleaning up and doing prep work for the following day. To understand what a sacrifice this is, you’ve got to meet Molly’s two daughters. They’re very well-mannered, friendly and just as enthusiastic as their mom.
Molly is passionate about her bakery. Hers is truly a labor of love (emphasis on both “labor” and “love.”) She’s got big plans for Dulce River that may not fully reach fruition for nine months or so. While the bakery currently offers a wonderful variety of muffins, lemon bars, quiche, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes (tres leches anyone?), danish and other delicious pastries, in time she’ll be baking tortillas and bread and even serving some sandwiches. Molly is as fanatical about Reubens as I am and will be collaborating with Turquoise Desert’s chef to serve her favorite sandwich. Her enthusiasm for the plans she and the Turquoise Chef’s plans borders on giddy. On Wednesdays she’ll eventually prepare pizza dough which will be ferried over to the Turquoise Grill for finishing (the northeast quadrant of Rio Rancho needs more good pizza). Breakfast burritos will eventually be offered, too. Lest I forget, the name on the soon-to-come marquee is “Dulce River Bakery & Coffee.” Coffees include a lavender vanilla latte neighbors are already raving about.
That reminds me, the Dulce River Bakery is located just about about a mile southwest of the Highway 528 and Highway 550 intersection. It doesn’t have much of a storefront presence from either of those highways (and as of 22 May, it doesn’t have external signage). Make sure you head south from the intersection and turn off at the entrance closest to Defined Fitness. Technically Dulce River is in the north end of The Village at Rio Rancho, a mixed-use property has been in various stages of development of nearly 20 years. Albertson’s is the development’s anchor tenant, but if you reach Albertson’s you’ve gone too far.
For those of us who live in the City of Vision’s far northeast quadrant, Dulce River Bakery is a godsend. While Rio Rancho is a burgeoning borough, it’s taken this quadrant a bit longer to provide the amenities residents need. Early enthusiasm for Dulce River is such that if you’re not an early riser (like Molly), there may not be many pastries remaining on the counter or on display within the pastry cases. You definitely don’t want to miss out on some of the very best pastries in the metropolitan area. Dulce River Bakery can compete with any bakery!
19 May 2023: Until Dulce River’s opening, our favorite muffins were from Walmart. That’s not an endorsement for Walmart’s muffins. It’s an indictment on the dearth of great muffins in Rio Rancho. During our inaugural visit we discovered where we can sate our muffin fix. Because chocolate isn’t considered a fruit, my favorite muffin is a blueberry muffin. More than any blueberry muffin we’ve had in New Mexico, Dulce River’s version has blueberries that have a fresh, fruity flavor. It’s not nearly as sweet as other blueberry muffins, a huge plus for someone who eschews sugary desserts. On par with the blueberry muffins were apple cinnamon muffins. Each bite will reward you with a delicious blend of fresh apples perfumed by sweet cinnamon. It’s a pairing that works in multiple desserts. It’s a magnificent pairing you will love.
Ellen DeGeneres once quipped that “I really don’t think I need buns of steel. I’d be happy with buns of cinnamon.” Ah, buns of cinnamon. Who can resist cinnamon rolls shaped like a spiraling galaxy, each spiral infused with sweet, woody, spicy cinnamon and topped with sweet icing? We certainly can’t. Dulce River’s cinnamon rolls aren’t especially large, an effect that will hopefully extrapolate to my waistline. They’re wonderfully fresh. Slather on some butter and heat them up for an even better taste experience.
23 May 2023: On out second visit when Dulce River had such an early morning rush that it ran out of pastries and Molly had to bake a second batch of everything. Very few items remained. Surprisingly, there were three nutella swirl muffins remaining. Not for long. We absconded with them quickly. Our initial experience with nutella muffins is one we’ll have to repeat. My Kim loves nutella so much that she slathered on even more nutella from a jar. I liked these delicate delights just as is. As with other muffins Molly bakes, the nutella muffins have a thin, evenly browned crust. The top isn’t artistic or symmetrical, but it’s very enticing. When broken apart, the texture is moist and uniform with a tender and light crumb.
12 July 2023: As bonafide Anglophiles, we devour every program that takes us back to the country in which we lived for three years. We become especially nostalgic when seeing some of our favorite foods being enjoyed (contrary to stereotypes, England does have some fabulous food). A recent program had us jonesing for scones. Of course we know we’re not going to find authentic scones. In England, scones are more akin to a biscuit. They’re rather plain and not sweet like American scones. They’re classically eaten with jam and clotted cream, making for a real treat. Scones across the fruited plain are sweet, most likely filled with any number of sweet add-ins, and possibly even covered with a sugary glaze. That’s perfectly fine. We know that when we order them, knowing we’re going to like them. Dulce River’s chocolate chip scones make us wish we were sitting on the banks of the River Windrush having a leisurely day feeding ducks. They’re terrific!
In the tradition of the heroic bakers of Vienna, Molly Martinez’s vision for the Dulce River Bakery means many of us will be hailing her as our savior from mediocre store-bought pastries. Dulce River is here to stay!
Dulce River Bakery & Cafe
4405 Jager Drive
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 12 July 2023
1st VISIT: 19 May 2023
# OF VISITS: 3
BEST BET: Cinnamon Roll, Apple Cinnamon Muffin, Blueberry Muffin, Nutella Swirl Muffin, Chocolate Chip Scone