Sunday, December 8, 2013

BEST MEXICAN CONCHAS



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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)

DOUGH
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

DAY 1
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

DAY 2
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

Submitted at Panissimo:  Bread & Companatico                                       
                                        Indovina chi viene a cena                                             
 






 


10 comments:

  1. These look amazing Karin. I've been wanting to try these since the last time I saw someone post about them and now you've provided the perfect recipe. I'm saving this one to try soon.
    Regards,
    Ian

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. You won't regret it, Ian, it is a bit of work, but so worth it!

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  2. I suppose that mujer misteriosa never thought that her panadero's recipe was short of perfect. Now it is. Can't wait to try your recipe!

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    1. Clementina, your story was so nice, that I went straight back to your post. So much better than just posting a recipe, this was entertainment pure!
      Please, let me know what you think of my little tweaks, when you try it.

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  3. What an increadible idea! They look so lovely. Sweet bread too. Love that.

    Greetings
    Anna

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    1. These taste really wonderful! It is a bit of work with the toppings but so worth it.
      Thanks for visiting, Anna!

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  4. If anybody wonders at the Russian words at the top of this post: I was mystified why so many visitors from the Russian Federation were looking at just this one post. Turns out that "concha" is a vulgar term, and those people must be very frustrated to find just a baking site instead something entirely different!

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  5. Thank you for your thorough descriptions. I am on my way to the kitchen now to try and duplicate the Master.

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    1. Thanks for visiting, and please let me know how they turned out :)

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