January 30, 2010

Pan Dulce – Conchas (A Mexican Sweet Bread)

Pan dulce means sweet bread and it seems Mexicans love sweet bread. At least, that is what Ben says and he should know. I first saw these beautiful rolls at Ben’s blog and knew I was going to be making them (soon I hoped, unlike a lot of my bookmarks!).

These rolls are pan dulce and called “Conchas” (meaning shells) referring to the shell-like pattern on the top of these rolls. Conchas are soft, buttery and covered with a cinnamon flavoured cookie-like dough which bakes to form a crunchy layer reminiscent of streusel. The bonus is the aroma of cinnamon wafting through you kitchen while the rolls bake.

So, last weekend I suddenly realized I had about a week left to bake bread for Bread Baking Day. Jamie is guest hosting this month’s edition of BBD with the theme of “Baking Bread For a Birthday Party”!
That’s right! Jamie celebrates her birthday this month and she wants bread at her birthday party.
It seemed to me that this then was the perfect opportunity to bake some chocolate conchas. After all, chocolate is stuff that celebrations are made of. At least, they are for me and I know Jamie agrees.

Searched my usual source, the net, for some background information on conchas but I didn’t find much. There weren’t too many recipes either. I was planning to use Ben’s recipe, when I found this one at King Arthur Flour, which I adapted a bit.

This recipe had a starter, and I thought this might result in a better texture for my rolls. I used all milk for my starter, reduced the eggs to 1 and reduced the flour by a bit too. The result was a delightfully soft, buttery roll with a nice crunchy top.
I was also pleased to notice the cinnamon flavour wasn’t too strong. The rolls weren’t too sweet either, especially with chocolate covered ones, and just the thing to keep a cup of coffee some company!

I made 5 pink conchas and 5 chocolate conchas.As you can see, the finish on my conchas isn’t perfect and my pink concha looks a little sad. I did mange to get the hang of it by the time I had reached my 10th roll! Traditonally, these patterns are pressed into the rolls using a pan dulce pattern cutter.

This video gives one a good idea of how the experts make conchas.



3/4 cup + 2 tbsp warm milk

2 tsp instant yeast

1 cup all-purpose flour


1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 tbsp butter

1 egg

2 tsp vanilla extract


2/3 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup soft unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (or food colour of choice)


Put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix them together and let them rest for about an hour, until the mixture is bubbly.
Add the dough ingredients to the bubbly mixture. Mix well and mix and knead everything till the dough is elastic but a bit sticky. It is important that the dough is sticky. If you add too much flour, your “conchas” will not be soft.
Allow the dough to double in size (about an hour). This might take a bit longer, so give it the time it needs.

In the meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the topping together to form a cookie-like dough. Keep aside. Refrigerating it for about half an hour will make it easier to shape it when required.

Once the dough has doubled, transfer it to a lightly greased or floured work surface. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball.
Also divide the topping dough into 10 equal portions.
Using your palm and fingers, flatten the topping dough into a thin circle/ disc about 3” in diameter. It should be big enough to cover the top of the roll and a bit of the sides too.

Place the balls of dough onto greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving space between them. Place a circle of topping dough onto each roll, ensuring the roll is covered well on top and a bit on the sides. Flatten each roll slightly

Allow the rolls to rise for about 30 minutes, covered. Just before baking, use a pan dulce cutter to press a “concha” pattern into the topping. Press down firmly, through the topping and into the dough. Alternately, use a sharp knife and cut the pattern (shell-like, criss-cross or whatever you choose) through the topping right to the dough.

Bake the rolls at 200C oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until they're golden brown. Serve the rolls warm, with jam.
This recipe makes 10 rolls. If you want slightly smaller rolls, you may divide the dough and topping into 12 portions instead of 10.

This is my entry to this month’s edition of BBD being hosted by Jamie of Life is a Feast. These conchas are also being YeastSpotted!

And now, a couple of thing unrelated to this post.
A few months back Meeta had invited me to join The Daily Tiffin as a regular contributor and I had agreed. After a lot of hiccups and false starts (mostly from my side), my first post was published there this month. My post there shall be woven around the theme of “Kid-friendly healthy meals”.

If you are not familiar with The Daily Tiffin (or DT), it is a blog started by Meeta with posts written by her and a team of regular contributers. The purpose of DT is to share ideas, thoughts, articles, reviews and recipes which are family-centric.

The other thing is that I have joined a 365 group on Flickr called “A Year In Pictures”, and have committed to taking and posting one picture a day for the whole of 2010! I did this hoping that it will push me to use my camera more often, experiment with new ideas and improve my photography.

Yes, it is quite an effort and while I’m not sure I can keep it going for the whole year, I’m most definitely going to make that effort. So far, the going has been good (not even a month yet!).
I would appreciate it if you could find the time to go to my Flickr and take a look at my 365YIP pictures and leave your thoughts there. Constructive criticism is as welcome as appreciation is.
Thank you.


Happy Cook said...

Learned about a new bread. I love chocolate and the pink one, and the pink one might look sad but i think they are really cute.

Asha said...

WOW Girl!! You are busy doing all these, already have plans for 2010. Good for you.

Those look fab, almost like cakes than bread rolls. Wonderful looking chocolate bread, new to me. I used to send a bread to every BBD, let me try next month.

Have a great weekend. We are freezing here, will see 8" snow soon tonight.

The Cooking Ninja said...

I love your pink bread :) Reminds me of my pink brioche. :) I can only imagine the taste of it. I got to make this for breakfast but first i need to finish my BBD for Jamie too. LOL!

simplyfood said...

wow these are amazing.Good try.

pigpigscorner said...

They look great! I've always wanted to try making this! a store in my home country sells this with melted butter filling..so good...

food said...

wow!! awesome!! they look soo tempting! Gal, you are to bring bread to my parties!!!

Asha @ FSK said...

ok that last comment was me from the wrong ID

Trendsetters said...

looks yummy

Sayantani said...

You have a real diverse kitchen Aparna. was exploring your page and was amazed to see the different array of recipes. truly genius.
the bread looks lovely especially with that chocolate top. love it.

Jamie said...

Aparna I am truly amazed! These beautiful rolls are just what I want, both the lovely pink and the chocolate (ha ha you know me well!). They are truly festive and luscious and we need something sweet for this party! Thanks for baking these for my BBD Birthday Party!

sra said...

The photo project is challenging, isn't it? Haven't done anything by way of technique so far, though!

I couldn't face another canteen lunch today and bought some sultana buns in a bakery for lunch - feel like spice to cut that sweet taste. Could have bought the puffs if they weren't all puff.

Manggy said...

I must be Mexican in some way because I LOVE sweet bread! These look lovely! :)

Rachana Kothari said...

Wow!!! Looks really good and tempting:) I 'd love to have the chocolate one:)

Deeba PAB said...

What a great looking & sounding bread Aparna. Did you know that I also baked sweet bread for the first time for Jamie (yet to post it), and we all loved it (other than the DB Danish).
I love the story behind the bread too!

Velva said...

The conchas look divine! Just beautiful.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I have a soft spot for sweet bread too :) It reminds me of being young and holidaying overseas! These look lovely Aparna and thanks for sharing these with us and inspiring us! :D

Curry Leaf said...

Love the bread Aparna.Is new to me.Love the details as well.I too baked a strawberry bread for BBD I have missed so many bbds and did not want to miss this as well.
BTW,I tried your Portuguese bread.That too was with a starter,and it was the first time I worked with a strtr.Loved the bread but with powercuts and all the bread took more than 2 days and I was too tired to take a click before we had it.I will be trying the same again after few days

Parita said...

Oh my these bread rolls look fantastic, i love the soft pink color, so very chic!

Ben said...

Very nice! I am sure these would be a hit with any Mexican, hehe. And I don't think the pink concha looks sad, it looks happy that it's going to be eaten. :)

Spice said...

Looks so beautiful...feels like taking a bite right now...

Mimi said...

Pan is so yummy! It's pretty commonly available where I live so I've never thought of making it, but yours looks pretty authentic! I may have to make some!

ap269 said...

I totally love the pink ones!

Joanne said...

I saw these on Ben's blog and fell absolutely in love as well! The pink one is gorgeous - perfect for Valentine's Day!

Jeanne said...

Beautiful bread! I always love learning about new breads. Thank you for the introduction to pan dulce!

Aparna said...

I always have plans, Asha. Its seeing them through that is the problem.

Pamela, just had to go check out your "pink" brioche. Its so pretty. Never seen anyhting like it before. :)

PPC, butter sounds delightful.

Thank you, Sayantani.

Sra, Its more challenging to keep going, I think. So am trying to work on technique to keep interest up. :)

You're a citizen of the world. Mark. :D

Congratulations Deeba. So now you're baking sweet bread too. :)

So you're telling me that you're an old lady, Lorraine? LOL

Hope the 2nd attempt with the Portuguese bread isn't jinxed, Sweatha.

Ben, if you say that then I know I've nailed these buns. "Happy to be eaten?" :)

Feels good to hear you say my effort looks authentic, Mimi. Thanks.

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

Oh pink bread! Wow! I have never been motivated to make bread ever, but these pink breads look so good, I want to. Today!