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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Conchas (without food dye)

Welcome to the September edition of the Bread Baking Babes! Today also happens to be Mexican Independence Day, and since I am the this month's Kitchen of the Month, I decided it would be both fun and timely to challenge the BBBabes and all of the potential BBBuddies to head into the kitchen to bake up my personal favorite of all Mexican breads—CONCHAS!

Now, if you've been hanging around here for any amount of time, you may know that I've already shared two different concha recipes in the past—but it's been 4 years since the last time I did, so I think it's time to revisit them.

Conchas translates to shells in English, and they get their name from the beautiful sugar crust that tops them, since it is cut to resemble the shape of a seashell. If you have a good Mexican Panaderia (bakery) near you, you've probably seen these colorful sweet rolls before. If you've never tried them, I recommend getting to the bakery early and loading up a tray with a pile of them, still warm from the oven. Seriously, a concha and a cup of coffee is enough to bring a smile to anybody's face in the morning.

But you know what you should also do? Try making them yourself at home! I'm sure everybody's recipes vary slightly, but basically, they are made from a dough enriched with butter, eggs, and often milk. You can use the recipe I've shared below to make the dough, which is very slack, but very delicious (I use it most often when I bake them at home)...but if it seems a bit daunting to you, you could try this other concha recipe that I shared back in 2010. It's a bit simpler, but every bit as delicious (and it works great in a bread machine if you want to use one to mix, knead, and rise the dough—just add dough ingredients to the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer). You are also free to use another concha dough base if you'd rather.
Although making Conchas in their entirety is the challenge I laid out to the other BBBabes, and also for you today, it's the sugar shell topping where I really want you to get creative! Before this batch, I've always used butter in my sugar paste—which is delicious, of course, but I thought maybe I'd switch it up and try shortening this time, because I've heard that it makes for a crisper topping. Honestly, I can't tell that it did, but my oldest son (and concha-lover) said that it was better than the topping I've always made before. That's high praise.

I've made sugar shell using powdered sugar and I've tried it using granulated sugar. I've added cinnamon to some (not my favorite, but I'm picky about cinnamon), and I've used both liquid and paste food coloring. For this batch I used a combination of powdered and superfine granulated sugar. I divided the dough into thirds, then kept one part plain (white), worked matcha powder into another (green), and cocoa into the third (brown). I love the natural tones that came from these additions.

And although I own some cool shell-shaped cutters, they're not necessary. I didn't even bother to use them this time. I've successfully used a butter knife in the past, but this time I used a 3-inch biscuit cutter to make the lines. This is the first time I cut the lines before adding the sugar paste to the top of the buns. Although it worked fine, I found that my buns were smaller and taller this time 'round. I think the "pressing" of the sugar once it's on the dough helps them flatten and spread a bit. I could be wrong, this could have been a fluke, but it didn't affect the flavor a bit.
Challenge Inspiration - make your own sugar shell topping for these conchas:
  • Butter vs. Margarine or Shortening (or something else)
  • Color vs. No Color - natural, cocoa powder, matcha green tea powder, pandan extract, strawberry Quick, food coloring (gel, liquid, paste, etc. - Susan uses natural colors here
  • Flavoring - plain sugar, add cinnamon, add cocoa or Nesquick (also adds color), natural coloring might also add flavor (powdered freeze dried fruits), zest or extracts, etc.
  • Impression - stamp vs. knife vs. pastry ring (good video at Sprinkle Bakes using pastry ring to cut shell shape)
  • Sugar - powdered vs. granulated (or something else)
So are you ready to head into the kitchen and bake up a batch of Conchas? I hope so! If you do, send a linky my way so that I can include them in my Bread Baking Buddies Concha Roundup at the end of the month (more info at the bottom of this post)!

Conchas (Shells)
Conchas are a popular Mexican pan dulce (sweet bread rolls) that get their names from the sugar shell on top that is cut to resemble a shell (or concha in Spanish).
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Conchas (without food dye)
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (largely unattended)
Cook Time: 18-20 minutes
Keywords: bake bread vegetarian nut-free butter sugar eggs milk Mexican

Ingredients (serves 12)
    For the dough:
    • 392 grams (14 ounces) bread flour + more as needed
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 large egg yolk
    • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
    • 7 grams (1/4 ounce / 1 packet) active dry yeast
    • 1/2 cup water, lukewarm
    • 102 grams (4 ounces / 8 tablespoons / 1 stick) unsalted butter, at soft room temeprature
    • 140 grams (5 ounces) superfine sugar
    For Sugar Shell Topping:
    • 112 grams (4 ounces / 8 tablespoons) vegetable shortening, at room temperature
    • 110 grams (1/2 cup) superfine sugar
    • 65 grams (1/2 cup) powdered sugar
    • 130 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
    • pinch of fine salt
    • 1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder, optional
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder, optional
    Making the Dough:
    Add flour, eggs, egg yolk, and salt to a mixer, set with the dough hook. Start the mixer at low speed. Meanwhile, add yeast to water and stir until creamy and well dissolved. Pour into the flour mixture and let mixer continue to work, now over medium speed, for 3-4 minutes.

    Add the butter, and continue to beat for another 3-4 minutes. Lastly add the sugar, continue mixing for another 3 - 4 minutes or until the dough is gooey, sticky, elastic and very smooth.

    Turn dough out of mixer, form into a slack ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic or a kitchen towel and let rise at a warm room temperature until doubled in size, 3-4 hours.

    Making the Sugar Topping:
    Cream the shortening and sugars together, then beat in the flour and salt; they will be crumbly. Use your hands to press the mixture together.

    Divide dough into thirds (~130 grams each third). If using matcha and cocoa, set one third aside (for white topping). Beat Matcha powder into another third (for green topping); set aside. Beat cocoa into final third (for brown/chocolate topping).

    Assembling the Conchas:
    Grease heavy baking sheets with butter or vegetable shortening (or use parchment or a silpat). Rub a bit of butter onto your hands to make for easy rolling. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and form into balls. Then, slightly press them flat, as in a thick disk. Leave about 2 inches of space between each of the conchas so they will have room to expand.
    making conchas
    Divide your sugar topping into 12 equal pieces (same number as dough balls). Form each into a ball and flatten into a thin disk. Place a disk on top of each dough ball and lightly press down. The sugar should cover basically the whole surface—it will pull away from the edges as the dough rises.

    If you have a concha mold, press it on the sugar topping. If you don't have one, cut through the sugar topping with a knife or edge of a circle cutter, making shell-type lines.

    Leave the prepared conchas in a warm area of your kitchen, uncovered, and let them rise again, for about 2 hours, or until they've almost doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 350° F during last 15-20 minutes of rise time.
    concha dough and sugar shell
    Slide the conchas into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the conchas are just golden around the edges and have puffed up.

    Carefully remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

    You could leave the matcha and cocoa out and have all white sugar shells. You could also add food coloring, cinnamon, or finely ground freeze-dried fruit to the sugar shell to color and/or flavor it.

    Butter or margarine can be used in place of the shortening.
    A few more concha recipes for inspiration:
    Conchas from Muy Bueno Cookbook
    Vegan Conchas from Thyme & Love
    This video is in Spanish, but you don't really need the words.

    This month's Bread Baking Babes challenge is a Conchas, as chosen by the BBBabes host kitchen of the month—ME!

    Would you like to bake along and earn your Bread Baking Buddies badge? It's easy! Simply make a batch of Conchas in your kitchen, and then email me a link to your post by the 29th of the month ( I will post a roundup of all BBBuddy links sent my way shortly after the due date. I hope you'll join us!

    For more great ideas and inspiration for making your own Conchas, check out this month's Bread Baking Babes posts: