HOW TO MAKE CONCHAS || PAN DULCE || UNICORN CONCHA || MERMAID CONCHA
How to Make Conchas
Conchas,appropriately named for the shell-like pattern they sport, are a popular type of Mexican pastry made with sweet bread dough and a sugary, cookie-like topping. They might seem intimidating to the novice cook, but the process involved in making these novelty rolls is relatively straightforward.
Makes 12 to 16 servings
1/2 cup (125 ml) milk
1/2 cup (125 ml) warm water
1/3 cup (80 ml) granulated sugar
2-1/2 tsp (12.5 ml) active dry yeast
1/3 cup (80 ml) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
3-1/2 cups (875 ml) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) ground cinnamon (optional)
2/3 cup (140 ml) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (140 ml) powdered sugar or granulated white sugar
1/2 cup (125 ml) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 tsp (7.5 ml) vanilla extract
1 tsp (5 ml) cinnamon (optional)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
Food coloring of choice (optional)
Making the Dough
Proof the yeast.Pour the warm water into a large bowl. Stir in the yeast and 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of the granulated sugar until combined. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes.
- The water must be much warmer than room temperature but not hot enough to steam.
- As the yeast stands, foam should begin to form. If no foam forms after the 10 minutes pass, the yeast might be dead, and your bread will not rise at all. If this is the case, you should start over with a new packet of yeast.
Scald the milk.The milk should be at least as warm as the water. Pour it into a small saucepan and slowly heat it on the stove over medium-low heat, stirring continually to prevent it from burning. Remove the milk from the heat as soon as steam starts to form.
- Set the milk off to the side and allow it to cool for a few minutes. When it stops steaming, the milk should be sufficiently cool.
Combine the milk, yeast mixture, and most of the other dough ingredients.Pour the warm milk into the proofed yeast. Also add the remaining sugar, unsalted butter, eggs, salt, cinnamon, and half of the flour. Stir until thoroughly combined.
- You could try mixing the dough with a mixing spoon, but you will have better luck if you use your hands, especially once you add more of the flour and the dough starts to become thicker.
- If you have a stand mixer with a dough attachment, you could use that instead of using your hands.
Gradually add the remaining flour.Divide the remaining flour into thirds. Add it to the dough mixture one third at a time, mixing well after each addition. Continue to mix after the final addition until the dough has come together completely.
- Do not add all the flour at once. Mixing the flour into the dough a little at a time makes the process easier and ensures that the moist ingredients are blended into the dough at more equal intervals.
- Continue mixing with your hands. You could also use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.
Knead the dough.Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Dust your hands with flour, and knead the dough by hand for 5 to 10 minutes, until it becomes less sticky and forms a smooth, elastic mass.
- If the dough starts to stick at any point as you knead it, sprinkle more flour onto the counter, your hands, or over the surface of the dough. You do not want to add too much extra flour into the dough, but you do need enough to prevent it from sticking to everything it comes into contact with.
Let rise until doubled.Place the ball of dough into an oiled mixing bowl and cover it with plastic wrap or a wet dish towel. Set it aside in a warm space for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.
- The bowl you place the dough in should be about twice the current size of the dough to allow the dough enough room to expand.
- Use nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil to coat the bowl before you place the bowl inside. This prevents the dough from sticking.
- Ideally, the dough should sit at a temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) as it rises. One option is to preheat the oven to its lowest setting, turn it off, and place the dough in the still warm oven with the oven door slightly cracked.
Preparing the Topping
Cream together the butter and sugar.Combine the unsalted butter and topping sugar in a large bowl. Beat the two together with an electric mixer at medium speed until the mixture becomes fluffy and less dense.
- Use powdered sugar if you want your topping to be smooth. If you prefer a somewhat grainy texture, use granulated sugar.
Add the vanilla and flour.Add the vanilla extract and flour to the contents of the bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until well-mixed.
- The resulting dough should somewhat resemble cookie dough.
- If you want to add a little cinnamon to the topping dough, do so when you add the vanilla and flour.
Divide in half.Separate the topping dough into two equal portions. One portion can remain in its current bowl, but the second should be transferred to another bowl.
- By following these instructions, you can create a chocolate topping and a colored vanilla topping. If you only want to make one topping for the conchas, though, you can add the other topping ingredients to the full batch of topping dough instead of dividing the dough into two separate portions.
Add cocoa to one half.Sprinkle the cocoa powder over one half of the dough. Blend it into the dough using your hands or a mixing spoon until the entire half is a rich, even brown.
- Note that the cocoa powder is technically optional. If you do not want any chocolate topping, you can skip it. Leave the dough colorless or add food coloring to it as instructed to do with the second half.
- Similarly, you could use cocoa powder to flavor and color both halves of the topping. To do so, simply double the total amount of cocoa powder called for in the original recipe and add it to the full batch of dough without dividing the dough into halves.
Add food coloring to the other half.Mix half a dozen to a dozen drops of your favorite food coloring hue to the other half of the dough. Work the food coloring into the topping dough using your hands or mixing spoon, and continue mixing until the color is evenly dispersed through the dough.
- Note that you can add more food coloring if you want a deeper color.
- If you do not want to use food coloring, you can color this half with cocoa powder or leave it colorless, instead.
Shaping and Assembling the Conchas
Divide the dough into 12 to 16 rolls.Gently punch down the risen dough. Separate the full bulk of dough into 12 to 16 evenly sized portions, and roll each portion into a ball.
- Spread these balls of dough onto two lightly greased baking sheets. Leave at least 3 inches (7.6 cm) of space in between each ball of dough.
- Gently press on the top of each piece of dough to somewhat flatten the top. The rolls should be round, but the top needs to be somewhat flat for when you add the topping.
Divide the topping into the same number of pieces.Separate the topping dough into 12 or 16 pieces, depending on how many rolls you made with the bread dough. Make sure that half of the pieces are chocolate and half are vanilla.
- Roll each piece of topping into a ball.
- Place each ball, one at a time, in between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Press down on it with your hands or with a rolling pin to flatten the ball into a circle. Each circle should be large enough to completely cover the top of one roll.
Place the topping on the rolls.Arrange the flattened circles of topping onto the rolls, one piece of topping per roll. Carefully press down around the edge of the topping dough to secure it into the bread dough.
- The two doughs do not need to be blended together, but they should stick together securely. To test the strength of the bond, carefully tip the roll upside-down after placing the topping on. The topping should remain on even when upside-down. If it falls off or if a side starts to fall off, press it into the dough a little more firmly and try again.
Cut patterns into the topping.The patterns you choose should resemble seashells. Gently draw the patterns into the topping using a toothpick. The lines should be deep, but not deep enough to completely cut through to the other side of the topping or into the roll itself.
- The name of this sweet bread roll, "conchas," is also the Spanish word for "seashells." In other words, the bread is named for this seashell design, which is why it is an important aspect of authentic conchas.
- Get creative. Try to mimic the appearance of a clam shell, or create a snail-like spiral pattern. If all else fails, you could just draw a criss-cross pattern over the top.
Let the dough rest.Loosely cover the rolls with a damp dish towel or plastic wrap. Place the bread back in a warm location and allow the rolls to rise again for another 45 minutes.
- As before, the dough should nearly double in size after it finishes rising.
Baking and Serving
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius).To save time, begin preheating the oven while the conchas rise.
- Ideally, the oven should be ready a little before or as soon as the rolls have finished rising.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.Place both baking sheets into the preheated oven, placing them on the middle rack if possible. Allow the rolls to bake until the bread turns a light golden brown color.
- Work gently as you place the dough in the oven. If you move the rolls around too recklessly, you could partially deflate them.
- Pay attention to the color of the bread dough and not the color of the topping. Since the topping has been colored with cocoa powder and food coloring, it will be harder to see any browning on it. The golden brown color should be much easier to spot on the bread itself, though.
Let cool.Remove the conchas from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes on their baking sheets. Lift them from the baking sheets and transfer them to a wire cooling rack to finish the cooling process.
Enjoy.At this point, the conchas are ready to eat and enjoy. You can eat them while they are still a little warm, or you could wait until they have cooled to room temperature.
- If you decide to save any conchas for later, let them cool completely to room temperature first. Place the cooled rolls into an airtight container and store them at room temperature for a few days.
Things You'll Need
3 large mixing bowls
Stand mixer with dough hook attachment (optional)
Nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil
Plastic wrap or clean dish towel
Two baking sheets
Rolling pin (optional)
Sources and Citations
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