Conchas, the faintly sweet buns that are made fresh every morning at bakeries in Mexico, are perfect with hot, milky coffee. Their name, meaning “shells,” comes from the pretty, sugary scalloped topping that covers each bun. The chef Gabriela Cámara, of Contramar in Mexico City, says that cooks in Mexico rarely bake conchas at home, but she developed a recipe out of necessity when cooking at Cala, her restaurant in San Francisco. At lunchtime, she splits leftover conchas to make sandwiches, which she says are especially good with spicy fillings.
- Serves: 12 persons
- 2 ¼teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
- ½cup/120 milliliters warm water
- ½cup/120 milliliters warm milk
- 1teaspoon plus 1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
- ½cup/110 grams unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, plus more for greasing
- 1teaspoon kosher salt
- 2eggs, at room temperature
- 4cups/500 grams all-purpose flour
- 1teaspoon vegetable oil
- ⅓cup/40 grams confectioners’ sugar
- ¼cup/30 grams all-purpose flour
- ¼cup/30 grams almond flour
- ¼cup/55 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- ½teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of kosher salt
Step 1Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine yeast, water and milk. Add 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and let sit until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
Step 2Add the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the butter, salt, eggs and flour. Mix on medium speed until the dough forms a smooth, elastic ball that pulls away from the bowl. It should be just a little bit sticky, not completely dry like bread dough. Use your hands to lightly coat the dough ball with the oil, then return it to the bowl. Cover with a dish towel and set aside to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.
Step 3When the dough has risen, butter two baking sheets. Punch the dough down lightly and use a knife or bench scraper to divide it into 12 balls (75 to 80 grams each). Arrange on the buttered baking sheets.
Step 4Make the topping: Combine the ingredients in a medium bowl and use your fingers to mix and rub together until the mixture has the consistency of cookie dough. Divide the topping into 12 balls (each one will be about 13 grams, if you want to be exact about it). One by one, use your fingers to press and pinch each ball into a thin circle about 3 inches across. (You could also do this on a work surface, placing the ball between two pieces of parchment paper).
Step 5Drape a flattened topping circle over the top of each bun, completely covering it. Lightly press any loose edges into the sides of the bun, making a snug coat on top.
Step 6To make a shell pattern, use a sharp knife to slash parallel lines in the topping over the top of each bun — or you could make a spiral pattern, or score the tops in a criss-cross diamond pattern. Cover with a dish towel and set aside in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.
Step 7Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake buns until lightly browned on the tops and sides, about 20 minutes, rotating the pans after 10 minutes.
Step 8Serve warm, or let cool and store overnight in an airtight container. Reheat gently or serve at room temperature.