Saturday, September 28, 2013

Conchas - Mexican Shell-Shaped Sweet Rolls

The town in which I live is surrounded by small and tightly knit farming communities. Agriculture has brought amazing diversity to this valley and it is not uncommon for farm workers to form communities of their own within the larger demographic. Tucked here and there, in towns originally settled by Germans and Scandinavians, you can find bodegas, panaderias and cantinas, as well as an occasional noodle bar that all speak to the tastes of the newer inhabitants. All refute the claim of full assimilation into the fabric of the larger community. Not all of the old ways can easily be put aside, and these are places where one's habits and memories of home are understood and can be shared. They are also a rich source of information and taste memory for culinary gypsies who travel back roads and byways to seek their treasures out. I had my first concha in just such a place about 10 years ago. A concha is a light, almost cloud-like, Mexican sweet roll that has a sugar-shell pattern on its top. They are lovely when fresh and Lucullean when fresh and warm. They are also dirt cheap and, even now, can be had three for a dollar. My determination to make them has nothing to do with cost and is based solely on my need to put another notch in my culinary belt. I need to know I can make them. I've been baking bread this week and because all my paraphernalia was handy, I thought I'd give conchas another try. I've mastered the bread portion of this treat a while back, but my toppings, while getting better, are still pitiful. The topping is actually a doughy sugar paste that is placed on top of formed and risen dough and carved in place. In case you can't tell, I've used a shell pattern for my sweet rolls. I had planned to share professionally made conchas with you so you could see how beautiful they can be, but they had all been sold by the time I got to the bodega. We'll just have to carry on with mine. I hope those of you who are into bread and have never made a concha will give these a try. I hope those of you who do not bake will try a concha, at least once, now that you know how delicious they can be. Here's the recipe for those of you who'd like to try your hand at making these.

Conchas - Mexican Shell-Shaped Sweet Rolls...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite, inspired by The Big Apple



2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted

1 egg

4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


2/3 cup white sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1) To make dough: In a large bowl, stir together yeast and warm water. Mix in milk, sugar, melted butter, salt, egg and 2 cups flour. Gradually mix in remaining flour, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Turn dough out onto a floured counter to knead as soon as it pulls together enough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in a large greased bowl, and turn the dough to coat. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

2) To make topping: In a medium bowl, beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Stir in flour until mixture is consistency of thick paste. Divide into two parts, and place one part in a separate bowl. Mix cinnamon into one half, and vanilla into other half.

3) To assemble: When the dough is done rising, cut into 12 even-sized pieces. Shape into balls, and place on a greased cookie sheet, spacing about 3 inches apart. Divide each bowl of topping into 6 balls, and pat flat. Place circles of topping on top of dough balls patting down lightly. Use a knife to cut grooves in the topping like a clam shell. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Yield: 1 dozen rolls.

You might also like these recipes:

Bolillos - Girlichef

Besos - A Mexican Sweet Bread - Tennie Cakes

Capirotada Mexican Bread Pudding - Homesick Texan

Pan de Muerto - One Perfect Bite

Pan de Muerto - Wild Yeast

Conchas de Colores Naturales - Wild Yeast

This post is being linked to:

Wild Yeast - Yeast Spotting

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