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Franciscan Faces
You Can Smell the Aroma of this Friar’s Craft

The aroma of baked butter pervades the friary at the Parish of Santa Clara de Assisi in Carolina, Puerto Rico. For chef and Bro. Eddie Caro, OFM, it is a way to spread joy.

“Nobody is unhappy with a sweet treat,” he says.

Bro. Eddie first learned to bake at home from his mother. Now he has extended his craft as an integral part of his Franciscan ministry, educating himself in the ways of producing delicious pastry.

Back in 1996, Bro. Eddie began making desserts to support the fraternity he was part of in Sabana Seca, Puerto Rico. He began formal studies in pastry making, taking a basic course at Le Cordon Bleu in Madrid, a part of a prestigious international network of French cooking.

Upon returning to Puerto Rico, he soon added a Caribbean twist to the ancient art of French torte.

Inspired by the sponge cakes of Puerto Rico and Cuba, he added hazelnut butter and local ingredients such as guava cream filling and acerola and pineapple. To top it off, he’s added mango and cheese filling.

It’s all part of an immersion in the artistry and creativity of his craft.

Bro. Eddie notes that when making a dessert, one strives to find a harmony among various ingredients and flavors; achieving it results in a perfect dessert.

He sees himself as part of a long line.

He knows that pastry makers have been practicing the craft for centuries, seeking that flavor and aroma, 

mixing ingredients harmoniously so none stands out over others and they can dialogue with each other. Everywhere he goes as a friar, he transforms not only the aroma but the spaces where he lives in the pursuit of perfect pastry.

Bro. Eddie planted a guava tree in the friary’s courtyard, from which he harvests the abundant fruit to make guava jam with brandy or anise. As his Franciscan tortes have become known locally, people also bring him many seasonal fruits. At the time of this interview, it was mango season, so customers eagerly awaited his mango and cheese-filled tortes, which are also offered at an innovative San Juan restaurant, to the delight of many. Each year he tries out new recipes with local ingredients and expands his bakery’s diversity. “Last year I took an artisanal baking course at Gremi de Forners in Barcelona, with the aim of adding fermented doughs,” he says.

The goal is a simple one: Bro. Eddie loves to see happiness on people’s faces when they taste a delicious dessert.

Now he is an expert at identifying the subtle aroma variations indicating that baking is complete, explaining that the result is a baked buttery aroma that spreads throughout the friary. Brother Eddie takes advantage of orange and tangerine zest and imbues his cake with lavender seeds, letting sugar sit with lavender for about a year to absorb its aroma. With 

similar patience,  since learning that vanilla is also grown in Puerto Rico, he prepares his own vanilla extract with rum and vanilla seeds, a process lasting eight months.

He fits the role of chef into a swirl of other duties as a friar. 

Bro. Eddie serves as the treasurer of one of the two Franciscan fraternities and the Franciscans of Puerto Rico. He also serves as a spiritual assistant for the Secular Franciscan Order and assists at San Francisco chapel, leading Sunday services. He lived in the Dominican Republic from 2014 to 2017, where he accompanied the postulants of the former Franciscan Custody of the Caribbean and assisted in administering a medical dispensary for friars in Villa Duarte, Santo Domingo. Upon returning to Puerto Rico in 2017, he took over the leadership of Santa Clara College in Carolina, a school run by friars for 52 years.

Bro. Eddie has vast experience in managing organizations, as he was a founding member and director of the Niños de Nueva Esperanza project in Sabana Seca for 16 years. He continues to be part of the board of directors of that project, which helps children and their families escaping extreme poverty and community violence.

Bro. Eddie maintains a busy ministry. Yet at the end of each day, or each baking session, he strives, through his baking art, not only to support the fraternity economically, but also to bring people together in a delightful way. The proof is in the aroma.

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