They’re adorable, lovely, and worth the wait.
Conchas are one of TikTok creator Chanel W.’s favorite breakfast treats. A simple look through her Tik Tok reveals lovely Mickey-shaped Conchas that she cleverly forms with a cookie cutter, Fresh Cream Conchas, and my favorite, Crème Brûlée Conchas that are filled with vanilla pastry cream and topped with torched caramel. Conchas are a fantastic way to get creative in the kitchen, as evidenced by Chanel’s dishes.
We decided to interview the creator herself to learn how she became captivated with this sort of pan dulce, the origin of conchas, their expanding popularity, and her recommendations for creating them at home.
Where does your passion for conchas come from?
I recall spending weekends with my grandparents and eating conchas for breakfast. My grandfather would take me to the neighborhood of panadera on weekends when I visited them in Anaheim, California. I’d stroll right up to the clear cases of pan dulce and spend minutes deciding which exquisite conchas I wanted to take home with me.
I then relocated to Texas and lived in a city where conchas were uncommon. This prompted me to begin baking them on my own. It took me almost five years to develop a recipe that met my expectations and memories. I’m refining my recipe to get it similar to how I remember my childhood conchas.
What are the key ingredients in conchas?
Conchas are made up of two major components. The first is a soft and enriched yeasted roll made with wheat flour, eggs, a little sugar, milk, and fat from butter, shortening, or lard. The bread can be scented with Mexican vanilla and cinnamon, and it is occasionally sweetened with piloncillo, an unrefined cane sugar with a flavor profile comparable to brown sugar. Although I believe that traditionally the bread was left unflavored, I have yet to come across a recipe for conchas that did not contain some form of flavor in the dough.
The sugar topping is the second component of conchas. The sugar topping consists of equal parts flour, sugar, and shortening or butter. The topping can be flavored with vanilla, chocolate, and cinnamon. The topping imparts a sweet, crumbly feel reminiscent of a light sugar cookie. It also lends sweetness to the whole pastry. When you bite into a freshly baked concha, you get the soft texture of the pillowy, spongy bread combined with the crumbly, crunchier texture of the sugar covering. While preparing the dough, manufacturing the sugar coating, and customizing each shell before baking can take hours, they are always worth the time and effort.
So, how long does it take to make conchas?
Concha-making might take up to 6 hours for a skilled baker. The preparation and kneading of the dough might take up to an hour, followed by 3-4 hours of resting time for the dough to rise. Topping and scoring each concha might take 45 minutes to an hour depending on your skill level. It takes a full day for home bakers.
I recommend splitting the process into two days for inexperienced bakers and allowing the dough to rise overnight in the fridge. On the first day, make the dough according to the recipe and place it in a well-oiled basin. Next, wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge to rise overnight. Remove the dough from the fridge the next day and from it. The chilled dough will be much simpler, and the flavor will improve while it ferments in the refrigerator. Next, allow the dough to come to room temperature and rise again before topping and scoring it according to the recipe.
Where did the concha originate?
Many accounts interpret the concha’s origins as comparable to brioche or challah dough, resulting from French bakers who moved to Mexico and opened bakeries around the 17th century. Others say conchas were created in the 19th century, when a baker scored the top of the streusel to look like a seashell. Conchas are traditionally dipped into hot liquids for breakfast; the dry texture of the bread is ideal for soaking up hot coffee and hot chocolate.
Why do you believe conchas are gaining popularity today?
Because conchas had always been a big part of my life, it took me a while to discover how popular they were becoming in the United States. I believe bakers and chefs have begun experimenting with conchas, taking them beyond the traditional breakfast pastry category. Conchas are adaptable in terms of flavor, design, and structure. For example, many pandoras sell Conchas Rellenas, loaded with fresh berries, cream, and Nutella. You may fill them with ice cream, design the streusel to resemble miniature characters, and flavor the topping with matcha or black sesame. The choices are virtually limitless, which inspires concha bakers’ creativity to flourish.
What advice do you have for beginners who want to try making conchas?
- If feasible, use a stand mixer: Because concha dough contains butter, eggs, and milk, combining by hand can be time-consuming because the dough is wet and sticky. If you’re mixing by hand, oil your surface and hands instead of adding flour to prevent sticking so you don’t overwork the dough. If too much flour is used, the conchas become dense and dry when baking.
- Weigh your ingredients: If you plan on making conchas regularly, I recommend investing in a kitchen scale. It makes all the difference, and the conchas will be delicate and supple. Also, there’s no need to be concerned about loading too much flour, which can result in denser, drier bread.
- When scoring the conchas, ensure you just score the topping, not the dough. Gently press to avoid going too deep. Clean a small, sharp paring knife between uses to keep the cuts sharp and clean.
The double-panning procedure yields golden-brown conchas: Use the double-panning method to prevent overcooked bottoms if your conchas are browning too rapidly bake the conchas on two stacked baking sheets rather than one to slow down the heating process. This produces beautiful golden-brown conchas.