Introduction: Mexican Conchas
These sweet breads are a traditional baked good in Mexico. You can find them in many Latin bakeries. I went to Mexico City and took a class on these sweet breads.The class was taught by Eliceo Lara. They are delicious. Eat them up quickly or freeze part of the dough balls and save for later. Enjoy with a cup of hot chocolate!
Step 1: Gather Up Your Ingredients
For the dough:
4 cups bread flour: important to get bread flour here. Bread flour is high in protein and helps your bread maintain its shape.
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 tsp of instant yeast
1 cup and 2 Tbsp of whole milk at room temp
2 eggs at room temp
2 tsp vanilla extract
7 Tbsp of sugar
1/2 cups of unsalted butter at room temp
* 1/2 tsp of cinnamon; not needed but I like cinnamon in my conchas
Why room temp? In the case of cheesecakes and other batters with a high fat content, adding cold eggs could re-harden the fat, making the batter appear curdled or lumpy, possibly affecting the texture of the baked product. To avoid this, make sure you use room temperature eggs for baking. Remove the eggs from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before use, or put them in a bowl of warm water while assembling the other ingredients.
I also like to have my ingredients ready to go pre-measured so I can just toss them into the mixing bowl. This saves time and could prevent a possible mix up. Take your time when baking. Remember this is chemistry after all.
For the crunchy top (this is basically a cookie on top):
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup powdered/confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup and 1 Tbsp of butter or vegetable shortening at room temp; keep the 1/2 cup separated from the Tbsp
4 tsp of cocoa powder
2 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
Step 2: Equipment
Step 3: Mixing
First add the 4 cups flour
*Add yeast and salt but make sure you add them to opposite ends of each other. I do this because mixing salt with yeast will inactivate the yeast. The 2nd pic. details how I separate the salt and yeast on opposite ends of each other. Once you turn on the mixer with the dough hook it coats the yeast and salt with flour therefore, they will never come into contact.
I also like to have my ingredients pre-measured.
After mixing the flour, salt and yeast, go ahead and toss in milk, sugar, eggs, cinnamon and vanilla. Do not add butter or shortening. Very important!
Mix the ingredients for 3 mins on medium.
It should come together into one big mass.
Step 4: Butter or Shortening
I like butter -- no, I love butter! You can use vegetable shortening instead of butter. I just love butter.
I had a Plugera Bar of unsalted butter. I used 8 tbls of room temp butter. I then cut it into small pieces. About 8-10 pieces.
With your dough in the mixer and using the paddle attachment on medium, start with one piece of butter. Let the butter swirl around in the dough and get mixed thoroughly about 30 secs. then throw in the next piece and repeat the process until all butter is used. After a couple of pieces of butter have been incorporated, stop your mixer and pull the dough off the hook and start mixing over. I removed the dough from the hook about 4 times during this process. I do this to get an even coat of butter.
Step 5: Dough Into Fridge
Once you have mixed in the butter and have one dough mass, you'll want to let the dough rest and develop gluten. Transfer the dough into a lightly oiled large mixing bowl, where your mass will double. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in the fridge to chill at least 4 hours. This is your first rise. You can leave it overnight to develop, it is best if used within 48 hours and punched down every 24 hours if you do leave it in for a while. Putting the dough into the fridge will help it develop strength and gluten at a slow pace rather then leaving it out at room temp.
Step 6: Crunchy Topping
This is essentially a cookie on top of bread.
You will need:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
8 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temp
Mix these 3 ingredients together on medium using the paddle attachment.
My home was at 65 degrees so my butter was still stiff, but I took a spatula to it and smashed it down until it softened up a bit.
As in the photos (they are in chronological order), once you start mixing it will come together in the end. The friction warms up the butter. Once it is a single cohesive mass (last pic) you are done mixing. Go ahead and take a pinch off and taste it. Its so delicious! Butter and sugar is magic in your mouth.
Gather the dough and form into a ball.
Step 7: Chocolate Crunchy Topping
What you need:
Crunchy topping ball we just formed
Divide the dough in two equal portions. Mix using a paddle attachment with 4 tsp of cocoa powder and the remaining 1 Tbsp of unsalted butter. It is important to add 1 Tbsp of unsalted butter here because of the extra dry ingredient going into your dough. Once mixed, gather your chocolate crunchy topping put into a bowl and into fridge.
Step 8: Add Vanilla Extract to the Crunchy Topping
You will need:
The other half of the crunchy topping
2 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
Mix using paddle attachment.
Gather into bowl and set in fridge.
Go ahead and taste the dough!
Step 9: After 4 Hours....
Take your now doubled dough mass out of the fridge and punch it down.
I used a scale, bench scrapper and measured my dough out to 70 grams each. If you do not have a scale, use a bench scraper and cut your mass into 15-19 pieces
No bench scrapper? Use a chef knife and cut the portions out.
You'll want to form your dough into small balls. Tuck all sides into each other and form a small ball. Place on a baking sheet with seems down. Cover with a cloth and let your dough rest for about 10 minutes.
Step 10: Making Tight Little Balls
This is hard to explain written, and its hard to teach in person. It takes a little bit of time to get but it will happen! I promise.
After the 10 min rest period...
Here’s how to form your dough balls from the risen dough, before they rest for a second rise:
Cut a piece of dough 70g from the large mass and fold its edges under to create a smooth outer skin on top of the dough ball. Place the dough ball, seam-side down, on an un-floured surface. The stickiness of the dough on the work surface will be your friend here. Palm the dough with a slightly cupped hand (there is a kind of tension created on the dough ball between the palm and the sides of the hand). Pushing down on the dough ball, roll the ball round and round under the palm, using the cupped sides of the hand to keep the ball centered under your palm. This will create surface tension and “stitch” the bottom seams together. Don’t be surprised if this takes more doing than seems reasonable. Check the bottom of the ball as you work to be sure the folds have been incorporated and have disappeared. Now you have a homogenous ball of dough, ready to rise again.
Once you have formed your dough balls, let them rest and lightly wrap the baking sheet with plastic wrap. Leave on counter and come to room temp. Soften some butter in your hands and spread it on the surface of the dough buns.
I make only six conchas at a time. After shaping all the dough balls I freeze whatever I can't eat with in a day. Set them on a baking sheet and put them right into the freezer. They should freeze in about 4 hours. After 4 hours put them into a freezer zip lock bag and keep them in the freezer no more than 3 months. You can do the same with crunchy topping. Just roll the topping into a ball, cover with plastic cling wrap and stick into a freezer zip lock bag. Now every time you crave a concha or have a pot luck or dinner to go to, just make some conchas! Take concha dough out of freezer and let it come to room temperature and follow the rest of the recipe from there.
Step 11: Crunchy Topping Ball
Take your crunchy topping out of the fridge and measure them out to 29 grams or equally divide it into 15-19 portions.
Form into a ball shape and set aside.
Do this for both the vanilla dough and cocoa dough.
Step 12: Shape Your Topping
You can either use a tortilla press or a rolling pin for the dough balls. I prefer the tortilla press.
Use plastic wrap or use a zip lock bag (quart). Cut the sides of the bag and cut out the top zip part as in the 6th pic. You can use a rolling pin as well, though it is hard to shape. With the tortilla press you get a nice round shape and its nice and even all around.
Step 13: Pre-Heat Oven
Now is a good time to pre-heat your oven to 340 degrees. Set your oven rack in the middle
Step 14: Cover Your Dough With the Crunchy Topping
We are almost done!
Take the crunchy topping and cover the bread dough. Only use 6 bread doughs per sheet pan. Cover the bread dough with the crunchy topping as much as you can. The bread dough will double in size and the crunchy topping will naturally cover the top of your concha.
Step 15: Concha Cutter
You will need a concha cutter here.
In one brisk move, following the pics. press the cutter onto the concha topping. Not too firm here, but enough pressure for the shell design to come out. Start at a 45 degree angle. This might take a couple tries but this all takes practice. Be patient.
Cover and let conchas double in size.
Step 16: Bake!
Bake conchas for 25 minutes or until the bread turns golden brown. Do not open oven while they are baking! This would cause a rapid release of heat which could cause the conchas to deflate.
Step 17: Eat and Enjoy!
I like to have conchas with Mexican hot chocolate or just as is! Enjoy!
Grand Prize in the