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When I first caught sight of these pretty rolls in a Mexican bakery, I was totally smitten. But my enthusiasm quickly deflated when I took the first bite – the cute little shells were overly sweet, but other than that: no taste whatsoever!
Sadly, this was the case with almost all the pastries we had at the Riviera Maya: they looked very appetizing, but tasted only bland and sugary.
|Conchas in a bakery in Tulum: pretty, but bland and sugary!|
But shouldn’t it be possible to bake Conchas whose attractive exterior matched a delicious interior? The idea intrigued me and kept me thinking. Back from our trip, I immediately searched for a recipe.
A Little Cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate didn’t only have a recipe for this Pan Dulce, it also had a very entertaining story about a nightly encounter with a mysterious woman and her ardent desire for revenge!
Before we flew to Mexico this year, I finally wanted to tackle the Conchas. Remembering the “Mujer Misteriosa” and her dark desires, I dug through several pages with recipes until I finally rediscovered Clementina’s blog post.
|Mexico’s Mayan ruins are worth a trip – here the recently discovered Ek Balam|
Mexicans seem to have a real sweet tooth. All Concha recipes I had googled, contained lots of sugar. Being a gringo, I cut it down drastically, and, also, exchanged some of the flour with white whole wheat.
And how to force taste into even the lamest bread dough? Three words: slow overnight fermentation! I reduced the yeast, stretched and folded the dough, and put it to sleep in the fridge.
Rolling and cutting out the chocolate and cinnamon toppings evoked an early Christmas spirit, but with a little patience (and the help of a large cookie cutter) this was achieved, too (though some misshaped cookies had to be crushed, cooled and re-rolled.)
|Baking brings out the pretty two-colored pattern|
After their rise the Conchas looked already quite attractive, the cuts in the toppings had opened, and after baking the two-colored pattern had fully emerged.
Of course I was extremely eager to see whether my Conchas had escaped their compañeros’ fate of bland and boring sweetness. We tried them, and – here they were, delicate rolls with a hint of cinnamon, topped by a crisp sugar cookie: a real treat!
|Delicate rolls with a hint of cinnamon, topped by a crisp sugar cookie|
BEST MEXICAN CONCHAS (adapted from A Little Cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate)
(16 – 24 Rolls)
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
75 g/2.6 oz butter, melted (1/3 cup)
1 large egg, at room temperature
5 g/0.2 oz instant yeast
420 g/14.8 oz bread flour (3 cups)
122 g/4.3 oz white whole wheat (1 cup)
1/2 – 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
60 g/2.1 oz sugar
5 g/1 tsp. salt
CHOCOLATE + CINNAMON TOPPINGS
75 g/2.6 oz sugar (1/3 cup)
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
113 g/4 oz butter, softened (1 stick)
136 g/4.8 oz all-purpose flour (1 cup)
5 g/1 tbsp. cocoa
In medium bowl, stir together yeast and warm water. Add milk, sugar, melted butter, salt and egg, and mix well.
|Mixing the wet ingredients|
Add flour and cinnamon in mixer bowl. Gradually add wet ingredients, and mix at low speed until dough starts coming together (1-2 minutes.)
Let dough rest for 5 minutes.
Resume kneading at medium-low speed for 6 more minutes, adjusting with a little more water, if necessary. (Dough should still stick to bottom of bowl, but pull back from the sides.)
On a lightly oiled (or wet) work surface, with oiled (or wet) hands, stretch dough into a square. Then fold it from top and bottom in thirds, like a business letter. Do the same from left and right.
Gather dough into a ball, place (seam side down) in oiled bowl, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Repeat stretches and folds three times more, at 10 minute intervals.
After the last fold, place dough, covered, overnight in the fridge. (It doesn’t have to warm up before shaping the next day.)
|Overnight the dough has nicely risen|
For the toppings: beat sugar, cinnamon and butter in a medium bowl until fluffy.
Stir in flour and mix until it resembles a thick paste. Cut half of it off, and set aside.
|Chocolate and cinnamon toppings|
Mix second half of the paste with the cocoa. Shape both toppings into disks, wrap in plastic foil and refrigerate to firm up (remove from fridge 15 minutes before using, so that they are not too hard to roll out!)
|First shape dough pieces into rolls|
On a lightly floured work surface, divide (cold) Concha dough into 16 – 24 equal pieces, then shape them into rolls. Place balls 2.5″/6 cm apart on 2 parchment lined cookie sheets. Using your hands, gently flatten each ball.
|Gently flatten each ball|
Roll chocolate and vanilla toppings (under plastic wrap) to about 0.1 inch/3 mm thickness. Using a bowl or glass (wider than your rolls) cut 8 – 12 circles from each topping. (I used a 3-inch/8-cm round cookie cutter to make 16 Concha toppings.) If dough gets too soft, put it briefly in the freezer.
|Use a glass or a large round cookie cutter to cut out toppings|
Gently lift each disk and place it over a roll. Using a small sharp knife or razor blade, score toppings in a clam shell (or other) pattern.
|Decorate toppings with clam shell or other patterns|
Cover Conchas and let them rise for about 60 minutes, or until an indentation, gently poked with your finger, doesn’t fill up again.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
|After proofing the cuts in the toppings have opened|
Bake rolls for 20 minutes, until golden brown (rotate and swap baking sheets after half the baking time.)
Stored in a brown paper bag, the Conchas keep fresh for 3 days (thanks to the whole wheat part.)
They were even good for a swap: Steffi, owner of the nice German restaurant Schulte & Herr in Portland (Maine), treated us to a fabulous Gingerbread Cake, after I had given her a Concha to sample!
|Cute baker’s child in Tulum/Quintana Roo|
Submitted at Yeast Spotting