Mexican people love sweet breads. A cup of coffee accompanied with a pastry has been a long lasting tradition. There are bakeries everywhere in the monster city (my beloved Mexico City). In a radius of 1 mile around my parents’ restaurant there were 3 of them that filled the air with the delicious aroma of freshly baked bread every morning. The one next door to my parents’ restaurant was owned by a Spanish guy who emigrated to Mexico in the Franco era. I remember him vividly because he used to scared me. He was a big and loud guy with a very bad temper, but his bread was always very good.
The history of that bakery sums up the history of Mexico’s bread baking. For centuries it has been shaped by the contribution of many different cultures, Spanish, French, Middle-Eastern and even Chinese. Today (according to Jane Milton, English author of the cookbook Mexican Cooking, The Authentic Taste of Mexico) Mexico’s bakeries can rival any European bakery. I have never been to Europe so I couldn’t compare them, but what I know is that Mexican bakeries are filled with rows and rows of delicious breads (mostly pastries) that are a heaven for bread lovers like myself.
What I love more about Mexican pastries is their names. We have besos (kisses), calzones (underpants), cuernos (croissants, literally horns in Spanish), trenzas (braids), corbatas (ties), pellizcadas (pinched bread), mufins (pronounced moofins, a recent introduction in bakeries), among many others. But probably the most popular pastry, and one of my favorites, is conchas (literally shells because of their shape), a round pastry topped with a sugary mixture that sometimes can be chocolate. When I made champurrado last week I really wanted to have a concha to go with it so I looked online for the recipe and this is what I found (I halved the recipe and got 6 buns):
- **For the dough:
- •1 kg all-purpouse flour
- •2 packages dry yeast
- •3/4 cups sugar
- •1 tsp salt
- •1 TBSP vanilla extract
- •4 eggs
- •200 gr margarine
- •1⅓ cups warm water
- •**For the chocolate coating:
- •1/2 cup margarine
- •1/2 cup sugar
- •3/4 cup flour
- •1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- •2 TBSP cocoa powder
- **For the conchas:
- •Dissolve 2 TBSP of sugar in ¾ cups of warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it sit for 15 minutes.
- •In a separate bowl, sift flour with the rest of the sugar and salt.
- •Mix the flour and the water with the yeast. Mix in eggs one by one, vanilla and margarine. Knead until an elastic and smooth dough is formed.
- •Let the dough double in a covered, greased bowl for 45 minutes to one hour.
- •Punch dough in the middle and form balls the size of your palm. Place on a greased baking tray and cover with a plastic sheet. Let them double in size again, about 30 minutes in warm place.
- •Cover each pastry with a circle of chocolate coating. With a sharp knife make crossing marks in the coating to form a shell patter (mine wasn't the best job, lol)
- •Bake for 30 minutes at 200°C (390°F)
- **For the chocolate coating:
- Mix all the ingredients to form a thick paste.
- Divide it into equal parts (that will depend on how many buns you end up with).
- Pat each piece into a 3" circle, approximately.