When I'm sad and need some food comforting I, like many others, like to turn to ice cream. But down here, in Mexico, people turn to "pan dulce" or sweet breads.
Mexican sweet breads include a large variety of pastries such as "cortadillo" (a large thick slice of vanilla sheet cake with a thin layer of icing and sprinkles), "ojo de buey" (a ring of crisp cookie dough wrapped around a cake center), or the popular classic "concha" (a slightly sweet bun with a shortbread-ish topping, marked to resemble the pattern of a seashell.)
Concha literally translate to seashell, due to the design on top but they can also be found marked with a crosshatch pattern as well. Conchas are made up of 2 parts: The bun and the topping. The bun is made with a butter and egg enriched dough, much like a brioche, but the topping is where it's at. Generally coloured pink, yellow, white or brown with cocoa powder, it's a crumbly cookie mixture where most of the sweetness of the pastry comes from. Much like a Chinese Pineapple bun, Japanese Melon Pan, or a Malaysian Papparoti, a Concha is the latino cousin.
These can be enjoyed during breakfast with your morning cup of coffee, as an after school snack, a light dinner with a glass of milk, or after a break up with your now ex.
Conchas (pg. 66 Panes Mexicanos : Irving Quiroz)
- 100 gm all-purpose flour
- 100 gm icing sugar
- 100 gm vegetable shortening, cubed
- 15 gm cocoa
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- optional gel food colouring
- 500 gm all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 14 gm yeast
- 250 ml milk, room temp.
- 2 eggs
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 90 gm sugar
- 105 gm butter, cubed and room temp.
1. Sift the flour with the icing sugar in a bowl. Add the vegetable shortening and mix with your hands until smooth.
2. Divide the topping dough into 2 equal portions and place them in separate bowls; Add the cocoa powder to one and the vanilla extract (and food colouring) to the other. Knead both doughs until you get a uniform colour. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
1. On a clean work surface with the flour (or in a large bowl), form a well. In the center pour in about 1/3 of milk with the sugar, yeast, and salt, using your hand, mix to incorporate.
2. Add in the egg one by one, gradually pulling in a little more flour each time. Little by little add the rest of the milk. Knead in all the flour, and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and uniform. (This will take about 10 minutes kneading by hand.) Finally knead in the room temperature butter, until all the butter is incorporated into the dough.
3. In a lightly greased a bowl, place the dough and cover with plastic warp or a dish towel. Let the dough rest in refrigeration for at least 4 hours. (Or at room temperature for 45 minutes or until doubled in volume.)
1. Remove the dough from the bowl. Working on a floured work surface, deflated the dough. Divide it in 70 grams portions and let rest for 10 minutes under a clean kitchen towel. Shape the portioned dough into balls and place them on a baking sheet, separated by a few centimeters allowing room for the dough balls to grow.
2. Lightly press down to flatten each dough ball with the palm of your hand, then light grease the tops with a little bit of vegetable shortening.
3. Lightly flour your work surface, and knead the topping doughs to warm them up. Form into small balls about 3cm/1" in diameter. Lightly flouring your hands, flatten the topping dough ball to form uniform disk.
4. Place one of the flatten toppings on top of a greased dough ball, then mark the top using a concha cutter (or a paring knife) so that it resembles the design of a seashell. Repeat with the remaining pieces. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest until doubled in size. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.
5. Bake the Concha for 15 - 20 minutes or until the bread is golden brown. Remove them from the oven and let them cool before enjoying.