I am a pastry devotee through and through so I’m not sure why it took me so long to make these delicious Mexican sweet buns. I’ve had them bookmarked for ages. They have just about everything I want in a pastry. They are soft and cottony at the center with a crunchy sweet coating, and (this is important) they’re darn cute, too.
I figure now is a great time to post these because next week we say hello to the month of May and soon after, we’ll be planning our courses for Cinco de Mayo. How festive would these look on a dessert table next to churros and fried ice cream cake? Yes, they need to happen.
There’s a bit of waiting that goes with making these rolls, but they are worth every moment spent babysitting rising sweet dough.
After the dough rises, it’s divided into 16 even pieces. Each piece is then shaped into a ball.
The next bit -scoring the sugar paste topping- is a little hard to describe so I made a short video tutorial. It’s my own technique for topping these buns. If I understand correctly, the paste is usually smeared onto the buns and then scored with a knife. I found that whole technique messy and awkward. If you thicken the paste just a tad with flour, it’s almost like cookie dough -easy to cut and score.
Now, you can buy a conchas dough stamp, and I was almost ready to do that, but I figured out a great way to get the same effect with a pastry ring. This will serve you well if your utensil drawer overfloweth like mine does.
I scored a variety of patterns into the paste; some were straight ridges and others were crosshatched. The variety of colors and patterns made such a pretty assortment on the baking tray.
As the buns rise, the scored sugar paste will separate a little. Don’t worry if some separate more than others. Some may not separate at all! If this happens, no biggie. They all bake up just fine.
This is one of those recipes that I’m sure to revisit. I already have a note in my recipe journal to try a chocolate version made with cayenne and cinnamon.
Mexican Sweet Buns (Conchas)
- 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water 105 to 115°F
- 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup butter at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
Sugar paste topping
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup margarine
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
- Assorted gel food colors
- Dissolve the yeast in warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- Add the milk, sugar, butter, salt, egg and 2 cups of flour. Stir together until just combined. Switch to the dough hook attachment.
- Add an additional cup of flour and knead on medium-low speed. When the flour is incorporated, knead at medium speed for 5 minutes. The dough should be elastic and slightly sticky but easy to handle. If the dough is very sticky, knead in the additional flour. Place the dough in a large greased bowl and turn the dough over to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
- In the meantime, make the sugar paste topping: Beat the sugar, margarine and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Stir in flour and mix until a thick dough forms. Add additional flour if needed. Divide dough into 3 or 4 even pieces and tint each with food color. If the dough becomes sticky from the food color, add more flour. Cover pieces with plastic wrap until ready for use.
- When the dough ready, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 16 even pieces (I did this with my bench scraper). Shape each dough piece into a ball by tucking the corners under (don’t roll between your palms, this will just deflate the dough and make it tough). Place the dough buns ona large Silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Roll out the sugar paste pieces on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 2 1/2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter or pastry ring. Use the pastry ring to score lines into the paste to resemble the ridges on a seashell (concha). Transfer the scored sugar paste rounds to the buns using an offset spatula. If the paste doesn’t want to adhere naturally, use a pastry brush to apply dots of water on the underside before applying to the buns. Allow the buns to rise on the baking sheet for 40 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake the buns for 18-20 minutes, or until they are fragrant and lightly brown on the bottoms.
- Store the leftovers in an airtight container.