Sweet breads (Pan Dulce) come in a variety of shapes, forms and flavours in Mexico and Latin America, and, up until now, were not on my radar when it comes to home baking. So I am very glad that this months Bread Baking Babe, Heather of Girlichef suggested we bake and blog Mexican Conchas. Lovely soft sweet bread rolls are topped with a crunchy sugar dough that is cut to resemble shells. The sugar shell topping can be left plain or traditionally flavoured with cocoa or matcha tea. Since Heather urged us to get creative with the sugar topping I decided to make a orange version, using some homemade orange sugar. To make orange sugar, I caramel orange zest with sugar, then allow it to cool and harden and then just grind it back down into sugar. I then substitute the required sugar in the recipe for this orange sugar. The end result is a lovely balanced orangey flavour without any bitterness, or orange peel bitty-ness.
Recipe for 12 medium or 20 mini Conchas
For the dough:
400g bread flour (1050 german flour)
2 large eggs
7 grams dried yeast
200g warm water
100g soft butter or margarine
140g fine sugar (castor sugar)
For the orange sugar shell topping: (enough for half of the Conchas)
zest of 1 large orange
80g soft butter or margarine
100g all purpose flour
For the chocolate sugar shell topping: (for the second half of the Conchas)
65g powdered sugar
80g soft butter or margarine
1 teaspoon cocoa powder.
- First make the dough, combine all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, then mix/knead using a dough hook and electric mixer set on low speed for 10 minutes. The dough is very slack at this point, add and extra 50g of flour and continue to knead the dough by hand until nice and elastic.
- Cover the bowl or dough and leave to rise for approx. 2 hours or until doubled in size. in the meantime make the orange sugar.
- Peel off pieces of zest from the orange and chop a little, cook in a pan with the 75g of sugar until it just starts to turn amber brown, Then pour onto an oiled piece of foil and allow to cool and re-harden. Once cooled pulverize in a food processor until it resembles fine sugar, set aside until ready to make your sugar shell topping.
- After teh dough has risen, deflate and divide the risen dough into 65g pieces for large Conchas or 50g pieces for mini Conchas, form each piece into tight rough balls and place seam side down onto your baking sheets, lined with parchment paper. Now make the sugar shell dough while the buns start to proove.
- To make the orange sugar shall dough. Add the orange sugar, butter, flour and salt to a bowl and use your hands to fully combine all the ingredients and bring it together into a firm dough, add more flour if needed.
- To make the chocolate sugar shell dough, combine all the ingredients for the chocolate version and bring into a dough, set aside.
- Roll out your orange sugar dough to approx 5mm thickness and use a cookie cutter to cut out circles to cover half of your dough balls. Place each circle of orange sugar dough on top of the prooving dough balls, slit the sugar dough with a sharp knife or use cookie cutters to create whatever shape you like, to allow the dough underneath to expand.
- Repeat step 7 with the chocolate sugar dough.
- Let the Conchas further proove for 30 minutes. Pre-heat your oven to 210 degrees C.
- Bake the Orange and Chocolate topped Conchas for 20 minutes or until nicely browned.
- Allow to cool and enjoy buttered with coffee or tea!