Ever since Netter treated me to a conchas, I’ve been wanting to make them. She happily shared the recipe with me to make little conchas — I’m going to call them conchitas — for a party, and now I’ll continue the baking love by sharing my take on the recipe with you. We both agreed that a photograph of her yellowed, butter- and sugar-stained, highlighter-graced cue card written by the then 12-year-old would probably be clearer if I typed it out and tweaked it here.
What do conchas taste like? The bottom is a yeasted sweet bun (pan dulce: sweet bread) that is topped with a cocoa and cinnamon cookie-like crunchy topping. They remind me of 菠蘿飽 / pineapple buns / melon pan except conchas are slightly firmer in texture and contain cocoa and cinnamon in the topping. When I was young, I used to pig out on these types of buns. Some things never change.
Jackie’s take on Netter’s pan dulce conchas
Makes 12-14 conchas, or 24 conchitas
– 4 – 4 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
– 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
– 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 1/4 cups lukewarm buttermilk
OR 1/2 cup lukewarm water and 3/4 cup lukewarm milk
– 1/4 cup butter, room temperature and cut into little pieces
OR 1/4 cup vegetable oil
– 2 eggs
*The amounts below make enough for the regular-sized conchas. If you’re planning to make the smaller conchitas, I recommend doubling the topping to account for the increase in surface area:volume ratio.
– 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
– 1/4 cup butter, softened
– 1 egg yolk
– 1/2 cupcake or pastry flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour because that’s all I had. I’m a yeasted bread baker, remember?)
– 2 tbsp cocoa powder
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
In a large mixing bowl, add the yeast to the lukewarm buttermilk or water and milk mixture, and stir to dissolve. Add the rest of the dough ingredients, and stir to combine until a soft, shaggy dough forms.
Autolyse: let the dough rest at room temperature, covered, for 15-20 min to allow the flour to hydrate and for the gluten to begin to develop = let the dough and a bit of time do the work for you here.
Knead for four to six minutes on a lightly floured surface until the dough feels smooth and supple. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise for 60 minutes or until approximately doubled in bulk.
In the meantime, you can prepare the topping: cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the egg yolk. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder and ground cinnamon together and stir once or twice for an even mix. Add this dry mixture to the butter/sugar/egg mixture and fold until combined – it will be slightly crumbly.
Divide the topping into however many buns you’re planning to bake, roll each portion into a ball, place on a small dish or pan, and chill in the refrigerator until the yeasted dough finishes rising.
Gently degas the sweet yeasted dough, and divide into however many buns you’re planning to bake. Shape each portion into a smooth, tight, little ball.
Take the cookie dough out of the refrigerator, and using a rolling pin — or if you’re in the mood for some smashing, use the palm of your hand — flatten the ball of cookie dough into a circle slightly larger than the diameter of your bun. I did the smashing between two layers of plastic wrap, and then peeled the plastic wrap off to transfer the cookie dough afterwards. Carefully place this cookie dough on top of your bun.
With a sharp paring knife, slash the cookie dough in a shell pattern (like a conchas). You’ll want to slash almost through the layer of cookie dough so that as the yeasted bun rises, you will be able to see the yellow dough from underneath the brown cookie topping.
Repeat for all of the buns. You can take out, say, three balls of cookie dough at a time from the refrigerator and work on assembling three conchitas at a time, so that the remainder of the cookie dough stays chilled.
Let the assembled conchitas rise for another 45 minutes, and then bake in a preheated 350F oven for 15-18 minutes, until the bottoms begin to turn golden.
Allow them to cool on a wire rack, and then enjoy!
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