Conchas de Pan Dulce are a Mexican sweet bread made with a soft and buttery dough. They are topped off with a sugary topping designed like seashells. Just perfect with for breakfast with a hot chocolate or coffee.
Originally published May 5, 2015 and updated on July 11, 2020. This is a bread baking project that is worth all the effort. I just love this Mexican sweet bread (conchas)and wanted to share them again with all of you!
When you make a yeast bread, you have to set aside time. Really, that's all. Time and patience. Lots of patience! I couldn't wait to explore ideas for a Mexican bread (and it's Cinco de Mayo!) when Heather chose our #TwelveLoaves theme.
I couldn't wait, yet I was not really sure which way to go. I was interested in something savory and I kept leaning towards semitas (sesame seed bread). When I saw some other members of the group were making them, I thought it was better to share something different and to create some variety for our fun theme!!
What are conchas?
Conchas are a Mexican bread covered with a sugar coating and shaped like a seashell. It's pretty easy to figure it out when you see their seashell shape. The crust is a thick and sugary. When you take a bite, it's a little bit crispy and it crumbles. Once you brake through the sweet and delightful crust, you get to enjoy the soft and fluffy roll.
It's a sweet bread made with flour, butter, yeast and eggs. It happens to be one of Mexico's favorite sweet rolls, and when you make them, you'll realize why! As I mentioned, all you need is time to bake them. The process is not as difficult as it seems.
Why you'll love this Mexican sweet bread
- One of the best things about conchas de pan dulce is that they are incredibly versatile and can be adapted to suit all sorts of taste preferences.
- They are also relatively easy to make and require no special equipment or techniques.
- Plus, they make a great snack or breakfast item that's sure to please everyone in the family!
What are the origins of Conchas and Pan Dulce?
Conchae-Pan dulce are certainly Mexican with European origins. When the French migrated to Mexico they brought their recipes and techniques. The Mexican bakers adapted those recipes to their style and you will see these recipes today in the panadieras.
There has been so much going on lately, I couldn't wait to take a pause and bake these conchas de pan dulce. I couldn't wait, but I just couldn't seem to find the time!
I have my in-laws here from Italy for a while. When my mother-in-law found out I was baking something, she was asking some questions. I had a sneaking suspicion she may have put an Italian twist on this recipe (it's hard to say no to her!), so I asked my hubs to take my in-laws on his errand while I made this bread!!
I used to remember coming across a few blogs when I first started blogging that shared stories with their posts. They weren't bloggers that shared 3-5 recipes a week. Maybe 1-3 recipes a week, but they also had a story. Back then, those were my favorite sort of blogs to visit. I couldn't believe how happy I was to read the story that accompanied a recipe.
The story that mesmerized me was written by a Little Cup of Mexican Chocolate and it started like this:
“I drove home feeling more than a little annoyed at myself for wasting my precious gasoline and getting laughed out of every Mexican bakery in town. Foolish to think any panadero [baker] in his right mind would hand over to a stranger with a blog his super secret recipe for pan dulce. I got down from my car and walked up to my gate. It was then when out of the corner of my eye I saw her step out of the shadows.
She was all ruby lips, high cheekbones and flowing dark hair. There was a pair of 5-inch heels on her feet and a peacock blue satin sheath on her curvaceous canela-colored body.
“Espera—wait!” I cried after her, but it was too late. I ran up just in time to see her shiny black ’59 Chevy Impala roaring past me. Its back lights grew ever smaller as I stood silently watching them before they disappeared onto Whittier Boulevard.
And that was the last I saw of her.
Who was that mujer misteriosa who walked out of the shadows that evening? I cannot say. All I know was that she was beautiful, her voice was as sultry as a hot city street after sunset—and she was out for the sweetest recipe of them all—revenge. ”
This is just an excerpt from the story that drew me in while I was looking for my conchas recipe! I loved hopping around checking out her other fantastic recipes and storied. It’s too bad it seems she stopped blogging 3 years ago. But if you have a few minutes and like Mexican food, you have to see what else she shared, besides these lovely conchas!
How do you make conchas de pan dulce?
The first step is to prepare the dough. I used my sweet dough recipe (found here with these gooey sticky cinnamon buns) that I use for mostly every sweet sort of bread and the topping recipe and process from A Little Cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate.
The dough is super easy to put together (it's the same dough I always use for sweet types of bread). Just make sure you leave enough time in your day to wait for it to rise.
The next step when the dough is ready is to measure out 14 balls of dough. I did balls of dough that weighed about 50 grams each.
The next step after you portion out the dough is to cut out the sugar toppings.
I used a small glass that was about 2.5 centimeters in diameter. I used that glass to cut out the circles of the topping. I obviously didn't divide my topping correctly and ended up with more plain topping than chocolate. Next time I will divide it evenly, because everyone was fighting over the chocolate conchas!
I didn't roll out my plain topping first, and I should have! If you roll out the chocolate topping first, the board and rolling pin gets messy with chocolate. So roll out the plain topping and then the chocolate one. Use a very sharp knife when you cut out your shell design! When you roll the chocolate topping, it may stick if it isn't chilled very well.
Use a little cocoa powder to help you roll it. The topping is very delicate. It may break a little while baking and your shell design could completely change, and that is ok! Some of my shells turned out perfectly, some, not so much! But I think the variety of shells is what makes them so beautiful, just like these conchas!
My kid's observation: "Mom, this is so interesting....the crust, the cinnamon. You should open a stand at the Green Market." I was told this twice, so I guess the conchas turned out ok!!
Variations and substitutions for Mexican Pan Dulce
- For a healthier version of conchas de pan dulce, you can switch out some of the sugar and butter for applesauce or honey.
- You can also use whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour to add more fiber to the recipe.
- You can try different flavor combinations such as cinnamon and nutmeg or orange and cardamom.
- You can add ingredients such as dried fruits, nuts, or chocolate chips to give the conchas a unique flavor.
- You can also opt for vegan variations of conchas de pan dulce by using plant-based milk and butter substitutes in place of dairy products.
Pan dulce and conchas are both types of Mexican sweet breads. The main difference between the two is that pan dulce is usually made with a spongy, cake-like texture and may contain ingredients like nuts, candied fruit, or chocolate chips. Conchas on the other hand usually have a crunchier, more cookie-like texture and their exterior is decorated with a distinctive topping.
The correct term is pan dulce. It is derived from the Spanish phrase "pan de dulce," which translates to "sweet bread." The shortened form, pan dulce, is most commonly used today.
Conchas can be enjoyed in various ways. They are often served spread with butter or cream cheese, or enjoyed as part of a traditional Mexican breakfast alongside coffee or hot chocolate. They can also be used to make delicious sandwiches and tacos, or even served as an accompaniment to a scoop of ice cream for added sweetness.
Pan dulce is usually translated to "sweet bread" in English. This is the most common translation, but some varieties may also be referred to as "Mexican sweet bread," "confectionery bread," or "Mexican pastry." It's important to note that not all types of pan dulce are sweet.
To freeze, bake the conchas and leave them on a baking rack to cool completely.
Place on a baking sheet and transfer to the freezer and chill for 1 hour.
Transfer the pan dulce to a freezer-safe container and/or zipped lock bag.
Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw when ready to eat.
Some other yeast dough recipes to try:
Conchas de Pan Dulce
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 ounce envelope active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water 100 to 110 degrees
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter plus 1 Tablespoon reserve 1 Tbsp for brushing the rolls, melted
- 4 1/2-5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup butter softened
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon powdered cocoa
- Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and let stand until cooled to room temperature. Meanwhile, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large bowl (*you could make this in a mixer or in a bowl stirring with a wooden spoon). Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- If using a mixer, beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, eggs and butter (if making by hand, stir it in with your wooden spoon).
- Beat in cooled milk.
- Gradually add the flour and salt, scraping down side of bowl, until a soft dough forms. Turn dough onto a floured work surface and knead the remaining flour into the dough, adding more flour if too sticky. Knead for about 10 minutes until smooth. The dough will be soft.
- Grease a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Make the chocolate and vanilla-cinnamon topping: In a medium bowl, beat 2/3 cup sugar, cinnamon and ½ cup butter until fluffy (make either in your mixer, or by hand). Stir in the flour and mix until it resembles a thick paste. Take half of it and set it aside. Take the other half and mix it with the powdered cocoa until well blended. Wrap the toppings in plastic and put them in the refrigerator to firm up.
- Cut and shape the dough into 12 - 24 balls, depending on the size you want (I made 6 chocolate and 8 plain. With the leftover dough, I made cinnamon rolls).
- Line a cookie sheet with lightly greased parchment paper. Place balls on the cookie sheet and gently flatten each ball with the palm of your hand. Space balls 2 ½ - 3 inches apart.
- Roll out the chocolate and vanilla toppings under plastic wrap.
- Take a bowl or a glass that is wider than the balls of dough to cut the topping into circles.
- Very carefully score the toppings to make shell designs. Be sure to use a very sharp knife.
- Gently place it over each ball of dough.
- Preheat oven to 350° F.Let the balls rise for another 20-30 minutes. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information presented below is an approximation and may vary depending on the exact ingredients used.
The #TwelveLoaves Mexican themed bread recipes:
Bolillos from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Cemitas from The Bread She Bakes
Conchas de Pan Dulce from Savoring Italy
Mexican Cemitas from Karen's Kitchen Stories
Teleras (Flat Bread Rolls) from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Whole Wheat Mexican Bolillos from Kudos Kitchen By Renee