by Heather Harris-Brady
Last weekend was graduation party #1 – a group of close friends for dinner and a board game tournament night. It was a big success, but with a dozen teenagers I was worried about having enough food. As I told my son, it’s the way of my people to worry about having enough food. Seriously, running out of food is probably our worst nightmare.
So, even with a taco buffet and four different kinds of mini-desserts I felt like I needed more. I needed a big batch of Mexican sweet bread. If you buy this at a Mexican grocery you probably know them as conchas. The commercial variety tend to be drier inside, and great for dunking in coffee. The homemade ones are tender and delicious, with a fine crumb.
This recipe comes from My Sweet Mexico by Fany Gerson. We’ve tried different recipes, but the topping has never been quite right until we found this one. You want a topping that is crunchy, and spreads out while baking – but not too much. When you are mixing the dough, think of how we did the brioche earlier. That’s the technique.
You have to start these the day before, but if you time it right your house will be blanketed in a heavenly combination of cinnamon and vanilla right when your guests arrive.
Mexican Sweet Bread (Conchas), Makes about 24 4″ conchas
For the bread:
- 1-1/4 c. whole milk (I used evaporated milk.)
- 3/4 c. granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 T. yeast
- 3/4 c. soft butter
For the topping:
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 c. powdered sugar
- 1/2 c. soft butter
- 1/2 t. baking powder
- 1 t. vanilla
- 2 t. ground cinnamon
Scald the milk and cool to room temperature. Add the sugar and the eggs.
Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl and add the yeast.
Add the flour and put on the dough hook.
Mix until you get an elastic dough, about four minutes.
Add the butter, four tablespoons at a time, and beat until the dough comes back together. It might take a while but keep going. Eventually you’ll end up with a shiny elastic dough.
Let it rise until doubled.
Then flip it over, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it overnight. The next day, when you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 and make the topping.
Combine everything but the flavorings in a mixing bowl and beat well. Conchas typically have a bright topping so I divided mine in half. I flavored one half with vanilla and added three drops of yellow food coloring.
I kneaded cinnamon into the other half.
Turn the dough out.
You can flour the surface lightly, but the dough isn’t very sticky at this point. Grease your baking sheets and divide the dough into golf-balls.
Divide the topping into large gumballs and flatten them in your palms. Put one on each roll.
Score them with a knife or a concha stamp. (I use an Ateco stamp.)
Let them rise until doubled and bake 35-40 minutes.
The topping will get crackly, and inside…
Is a beautiful fine-grain. These reheat and freeze well. Store leftovers wrapped at room temperature for up to three days.