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Conchas are soft and yummy Mexican sweet breads with a shell-shaped sugar topping.
In Spanish, “concha” means “shell” which is where this dessert bread gets its name.
White is the most common topping color, but you will also find other colors like pink or chocolate.
They are easily found everywhere in Mexico from bakeries to pharmacies and consumed at all hours of the morning, day, or night.
How to Make the Dough:
- Add warm water to the yeast.
- Mix slightly. Set is aside.
Don’t use hot water to the yeast, or you will kill the beast. You can also use milk instead of water.
Yeast is also used when making Rosca de Reyes, Pan de Muerto, and other traditional Mexican breads.
Very Important! Look at the expiration date on the yeast package. If it is expired, you can’t use it. Test the yeast by adding some to warm water. It should start to bubble after 5 minutes and good to use.
- Unsalted butter ONLY! Don’t use salted butter as it will kill the yeast, and the bread won’t rise.
- The butter has to be either room temperature or melted. Cold gets old, and it won’t fold when mixing.
- Use bread flour for a softer texture.
- You might need more or less milk, depending on the flour used. Some flour absorbs more milk. Other flours absorb less milk.
- Instead of evaporated milk, you can substitute for regular milk.
- Add all of the ingredients to a mixer EXCEPT for the flour.
- Mix on a low-medium speed.
- Slowly add a little bit of the flour and mix.
You can use a regular hand mixer too.
Pro Tip: Start early in the day so the dough has plenty of time to proof. You can also make the dough a day before. Simply store in your fridge, then bake the next day.
I usually start with the paddle attachment. As the dough gets thicker, I switch to the hook attachment.
Stop every so often and scrape the sides of the bowl.
Be sure not to turn on the Kitchen Aid mixer or the hand mixer on high. Flour will go everywhere!
This dough is needy. Wink. Wink.
Be patient. It can take up to 15 minutes (sometimes 20 minutes) for the dough to come together.
At first, it might look like it will never come together, and you will be tempted to add more flour.
DON’T ADD FLOUR, or your conchas will be more dense.
If after 15 minutes, you don’t see the dough come together, add a little bit of flour. Little by little, until it comes together.
The dough should be elastic, soft, and should NOT stick to your hands.
Place the dough in a greased bowl. Turn it around so you can grease the bottom side too.
Cover with plastic or a kitchen towel. If you don’t cover the dough, it will form a crust.
Leave the dough in a warm place. It will take roughly 2 hours for the dough to rise. It will double in size. In this case, size does matter. 😉
How to Make the Sugar Topping:
Any good authentic Mexican conchas recipe starts with the vanilla topping.
From there you can change it to whatever you like: strawberry, chocolate, purple, etc.
Here, we are doing two types of toppings – chocolate and vanilla.
How to Change the Color of the Toppings:
- For yellow conchas, add a few drops of yellow food coloring to the sugar topping.
- For pink conchas, add a few drops of red food coloring.
- Add softened butter to the mixer.
- Mix for 1 minute.
- Add powdered sugar and flour to the mixer.
- Blend until smooth.
Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. You want to mix everything well.
After you add the flour, the topping mixture will look like wet sand. This is exactly what you want. By itself, this conchas topping tastes really, really good.
- Divide the sugar topping into two balls.
- Set one aside in a bowl, and the other in another bowl.
If you are only making white conchas (or as some people know them “Conchas de Novia”), then skip this next step.
To one of the topping balls, add the cocoa powder. Mix well.
If you are making the topping using food coloring, use gloves. It tends to stain your hands.
- Take the sugar topping and roll out 6 chocolate balls and 6 vanilla balls.
- Place one of the balls between two pieces of wax papers.
- Using a rolling pin, roll out the topping wide enough to cover the dough balls.
Use your judgement here. Eyeball the size you need.
See how thick this is?
Do not roll this out too thin or it will crumble before you are able to place it on the dough.
- Remove the plastic wrap or kitchen towel, and place on a wooden surface.
- Divide the dough into 12 pieces, a little smaller than the size of a tennis balls.
- Roll out until smooth.
Make sure they are the same size, or they will not cook evenly. Place each of the dough balls on a greased sheet pan.
Separate them about 3 inches apart.
They will expand when they are baking in the oven.
Pat them down with the back of your hand to flatten them out slightly.
- Grease the top of the balls with shortening or melted butter. It will help the sugar topping stick to the dough.
- Take the rolled out topping and gently place it on top of the dough balls.
I am using a serrated knife to create the pattern. If you use a knife, dip it in flour after each use.That way the knife will not stick to the topping.
You can also buy a conchas cutter online. Same thing, dip the cutter in flour after each use. It will make things easier.
Cover the conchas and proof for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour. Then bake for 20 minutes.
You can even freeze the dough. Thaw and bake later.
HOW LONG DO THEY LAST?
Do NOT store conchas (or Mexican Sweet Bread) in the refrigerator. They will go stale faster.
Best way to store pan dulce (or conchas) is at room temperature for 1-2 days in a plastic, sealable bag.
You can freeze them for longer storage, but they won’t be the same. If you are making conchas bread pudding, you can use frozen conchas.
More Pan Dulce Recipes:
Pan Dulce, or Mexican Sweet Bread, can make strong men weep and children smile. Serve these soft and fluffy Mexican Conchas with coffee or milk for dunking.
They are a lot of work, but totally worth it. You can taste the love baked into every bite.
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Did you make this recipe? Please rate the recipe below!
Conchas + VIDEO
For the Dough:
- 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter or margarine softened or melted
- 1 egg
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the Topping:
- 2/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder if using
For the Dough:
- In a large bowl, stir together the yeast and warm water.
- Mix and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Add the evaporated milk, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, 1/3 cup butter, egg and 2 cups of the flour.
- Mix everything on medium speed.
- Stop mixing and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Gradually add in the remaining flour and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.
- Knead with the hook attachment for 10-15 minutes.
- Do not add more flour.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured counter.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl.
- Turn the dough to coat the bottom.
- Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel.
- Let rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size. About 2 hours.
For the Topping:
- In a bowl, beat 2/3 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 cup butter until light and fluffy.
- Scrape the sides of the bowl, making sure to mix everything.
- Stir in the flour, cinnamon, and vanilla.
- Mix until the mixture is the consistency of a thick paste. It will look like wet sand.
- Divide into two parts, and place one part in a separate bowl.
- If making chocolate conchas, add cocoa powder to one of the bowls, and mix until fully incorporated.
- When the dough is done rising, divide into 12 pieces.
- Make sure the dough pieces are the same size, or they will not bake evenly.
- Shape the dough into balls.
- Place on a greased cookie sheet.
- Space the dough pieces out about 3 inches apart.
- Gently press them down with the back of your hand.
- Make 6 balls of the chocolate topping mixture and 6 balls of the white topping mixture.
- Place each ball between wax paper.
- Using a rolling pin, roll out the balls enough to cover the dough balls.
- Grease the top of the dough with melted butter, oil, or shortening.
- Place the rolled out topping on top of the dough balls.
- Pat down lightly.
- Use a knife to cut the grooves in the topping like a shell or criss cross.
- Cover and let rise until doubled. About 45 minutes to an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
- Bake for 20 minutes.
These look so good!! I will have to try making these one day!!!
Hope you do. These are super yummy!
Jen @ Jenron Designs
Yum this sounds delicious I had this style of bread last year at a friends house for Dia de Morta it was awesome!
Yes, it’s very common to add to ofrendas or to eat conchas on Dia de los Muertos. So yummy!
Hi! Our dough didn’t rise. We used active dry yeast (same as your picture) and warm (not hot water). The dough cracks easily as well? Is that normal? Thank you!
The number 1 reason why dough doesn’t rise – did you check the expiration date on the yeast? If it’s expired, it won’t work. The number 2 reason why dough doesn’t rise if using hot water. Hot water will kill the yeast. Lastly, you need to place the dough in a warm place. Sometimes, it needs longer than mentioned here in the recipe, depending on where you are located, what the weather is like. Give it time to rise. Hope all this helps.
it is so good
Yay! Glad you enjoyed them.
Have you ever attempted to use Gluten Free flour for this recipe? It sounds AMAZING!
I’ve never tried it with gluten free flour. Let me know if you do. I’d love to hear what you thought.
I’ve been making your recipe and it’s awesome! Question though, when I mix the water and yeast, is it suppose to bubble? Mine doesn’t!
Yes. Yeast is supposed to bubble. That’s when you know the yeast is active. If no bubbles, that means the yeast is dead.
I’d like to start off by saying thank you for taking the time to create this recipe and the video! Made these today and they were a big hit. The bread bit was soft and a bit dense as I used bread flour, but still perfect none the less. The sugar topping was good…once the correct ingredients and amounts were incorporated. The amounts listed and the instructions were not totally accurate and a bit confusing. If you’re making these, please watch her video and pay close attention to her picture above the sugar topping breakdown with the measuring cups! I sadly had to toss a batch out as it did not become the “wet sand paste” consistency. I also didn’t add cinnamon to the topping either. Thanks again!
I’m glad to hear that the recipe and video were helpful in making these delicious treats. Hope you make this Conchas recipe again soon!