One of my sons asked if I could make conchas as a surprise treat for his wife for Mother’s Day. Of course, I said yes, then searched the internet to see what the hell conchas are. I found three or four recipes that seemed sensible, watched two YouTube videos on technique, then tried two “practice” batches.
The first batch was ok, but the texture was wrong. They were tight crumbed and tough, although the flavor was acceptable. Bear in mind, I had never eaten (or heard of) a concha before this week, but I do know what good bread texture and flavor is. QC reminded me I couldn’t even pronounce “concha” until a friend corrected me. My pronunciation was so off, she didn’t know what I was talking about until I showed her one and she said “Oh! Concha. I love them.” The sugar topping used vegetable shortening rather than butter. The author thought the resultant topping would be less grainy. I liked the ones with butter better.
The second batch was better. I used butter based topping and bread flour rather than AP. The crumb still wasn’t acceptable but the flavor remained good. QC thought they needed a little more cinnamon so in the final batch I doubled the cinnamon from one-half to a full teaspoon.
If you make conchas do not over knead the dough. It will be, and should be, very slack,. Proof in a warm, dry, draft free environment. I did as one of the authors recommended, when I started, I turned one of my ovens to “Proof” then just before putting in the dough, turned it off. If you don’t have a proofing oven, just put the light on and leave it on. Proof this way for exactly two hours.
I changed how the topping was formed. After rolling, pressing and buttering the dough balls I rolled the topping out between two sheets of parchment paper, then chose a round cookie cutter the same size as the flattened dough balls. This worked much better than using my hands to flatten the topping into disks to put on the buttered dough balls. Trust me on this.
Conchas Mexicanas Pan Dulce
(Makes about 8-12 conchas it all depends on how large you want them. 10 conchas will be about five inches diameter each.)
• 1 cup evaporated milk
• 1 tbsp instant yeast-
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 4 cups (560 g) flour (remove 4 Tbl flour and add 4 Tbl cake and bread enhancer.
• 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
• 1 tbsp vanilla
• 3 eggs
• 8 tbsp unsalted butter
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1 cup AP flour
• 1 cup powder sugar
• 8 tbsp unsalted butter at room temp
• 1 tbsp vanilla
• (Optional To add chocolate flavor add 1 -2 tsp Hershey’s cocoa)
- If you have a “proof” setting on your oven turn it on now. If not, turn on the oven light to create a warm environment
- Heat evaporated milk for 30 sec in microwave
- Add 1 Tbl of the ¾ c sugar and 1 Tbl yeast to the warm milk, mix thoroughly and let sit for 5-10 min
- Sift flour, sugar, and cinnamon into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until well combined
- Add room temperature (soft) butter, vanilla, and yeast/sugar/evaporated milk mixture to the dry ingredients
- Add eggs on at a time start timer for 10 minutes
- After 5 minutes add salt and continue kneading
- Coat bowl with a light coating of cooking spray, form dough into a ball and cover.
- If you turned ON the proof setting turn the oven OFF now
- Place covered bowl into your OFF oven with the oven light on and set timer for 2 hours
TOPPING – (Make the topping after the dough had proofed for 1 ¾ hours to keep it fresher and more pliable)
- Sift powdered sugar and flour into a medium sized bowl
- Add room temperature butter and vanilla and mix into a smooth paste. (I found it easiest to “knead” with my hands.)
- If you are flavoring the topping add the cocoa now and mix thoroughly. You can divide the topping and only flavor half)
- Wrap tightly in plastic.
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Pour dough onto a very lightly floured surface and form into a log
- Divide the dough into the number of conchas desired. (8 conchas will be about 5-6” diameter.)
- Roll each portion by cupping your hand over the portion and rolling on the table until the little dimple on the bottom disappears. (You may need to pinch the dimple together)
- Place the portions on the parchment lined baking sheet.
- Rub butter on each roll covering the entire surface
- Divide the topping into the same number of conchas
- Place each topping portion into a ball then roll between parchment paper sheets to about 1/8” thickness
- Cut flattened topping with a round cookie cutter just larger than the diameter of the dough ball
- Place a disk of topping on each dough ball and press down firmly. (some people recommend pinching the edge of the topping and dough together .)
- Use a concha cutter (or knife) to emboss the traditional “shell” pattern being sure not to cut all the way through the topping.
- Preheat oven to 325 F.
- Cover concha’s and let rest 30-45 minutes
- Bake 15-20 minutes, until bottom is light brown. Don’t be surprised if it requires 28-30 minutes for the bottoms to brown.