Pan Dulce (Conchitas): Mexican Sweet Bread with a Shell-Shaped Topping

Pan dulce (conchas, or these are mini, conchitas)

Pan dulce (conchas, or since these are mini, conchitas)

Want one?

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.

Topping for the conchitas

Topping for the conchitas

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.

Ready for chillin'. I wasn't paying attention and somehow ended up with only 23 instead of 24 balls of cookie dough (this is what happens when you're lazy and don't scale things).

Ready for chillin'. I wasn't paying attention and somehow ended up with only 23 instead of 24 balls of cookie dough (I was lazy and eyeballed the portions instead of scaling them).

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.

Happy little ones, aren't they?

Happy little ones, aren't they?

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.


There may be some slight cracking, but that's okay.

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.

Score with several slashes to resemble a seashell.

Score with several slashes to resemble a seashell.

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.

If anyone ever asks, I'm going to say I'm the proud mommy of 24 little babies.

If anyone ever asks, I'm going to say I'm the proud mommy of 24 little babies.

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!

Crunchy on the top, soft on the bottom. Delicious (and cute!) all the way through.

Crunchy on the top, soft on the bottom. Delicious (and cute!) all the way through.

* * *

I’m sending these to Netter, who kindly shared her conchas recipe with me and gave sage advice on how to make them, and to Susan at Wild Yeast for YeastSpotting.

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21 Responses to “Pan Dulce (Conchitas): Mexican Sweet Bread with a Shell-Shaped Topping”

  1. rainbowbrown Says:

    These look wonderful. Conchas are a favorite of mine – something I grew up pigging out on regularly. I love making them too.

  2. toxobread Says:

    Thanks, Tommi! I had always wondered how the crunchy topping was made and now I know. They were a lot of fun to make; I think it would be interesting to add some filling inside the buns too.

  3. Jie Jie Says:

    They look lovely and like the character at the cartoon : 天空之城!!

    No idea how Conchas taste but should be good.

  4. toxobread Says:

    Jie Jie: conchas are pretty good; want me to make some for your next visit? 😀

  5. Sara Says:

    Wow, I have never heard of these before. Cookies on top of fresh sweet bread – how could it not be good! I have bookmarked these to try. Thanks!

    • toxobread Says:

      Hi Sara: I had only recently found out about conchas too. Let me know how it goes, if you get a chance to try them!

  6. em Says:

    Looks great! Mexican style pineapple bun! I should try this one day.

    P.S. I made banana bread with a muffin recipe and with peach yogurt instead of sour cream, haha.

  7. toxobread Says:

    Thanks, Em! Oooh how did the banana bread with peach yogurt turn out?

  8. YeastSpotting February 20, 2009 | Wild Yeast Says:

    […] Pan Dulce (Conchitas) […]

  9. Susan/Wild Yeast Says:

    These are such fun little breads!

  10. Amanda Says:

    These look great! I was wondering how to make them, and now I can’t wait to try!

    • toxobread Says:

      Amanda: I had a lot of fun making them – it felt like putting together the best of a basic sweet bun and a cookie. Let me know how it goes if you get a chance to try these. 🙂

  11. Joie de vivre Says:

    This is my first time on your blog! I found you through Yeastspotting and oh my goodness, I’m so glad I did! These look incredible.

    • toxobread Says:

      Joie de vivre: Thanks for dropping by and for your kind remarks. J’aime Susan’s weekly YeastSpotting posts aussi!

  12. Memoria Says:

    I teach Spanish at my university, and I’m going to make these for my students so that they can eat one during their final exam! Thanks!!

  13. toxobread Says:

    Wow, Memoria! That is so nice of you – wish I had professors who brought homemade baked goods to my final exams!
    Let me know how these turn out. 🙂

  14. Memoria Says:

    I just made these today. I decided to make them early for el 5 de mayo. They look and taste great. Although time-consuming, the process was very easy and straightforward. Thanks for the recipe!

    My students are lucky to have a professor who is obsessed with baking! haha That is all. 🙂

  15. toxobread Says:

    Memoria: glad they turned out well! They do take quite a bit of time to make but then I have one warm out of the oven, and know it’s definitely worth it ha ha.

  16. Memoria Says:

    I just made a post about these! I apologize early for the bad lighting on my photos; they are not nearly as pretty as yours. I hope you will stop by!

  17. Helene Says:


    Your recipe is so easy to follow. Creating these conchas has inspired me for a business idea. Of course, the original recipe is credited to you. 🙂 Thanks!

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