Conchas or Pan Dulce
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This Mexican-inspired recipe for conchas, also known as pan dulce, is an easy-to-make and super versatile sweet bread. Make this traditional pastry for breakfast, brunch, or any festive occasion.
Today’s recipe for Mexican pan dulce requires the simplest of ingredients and only a few simple steps. Pan dulce translates to sweet bread in English, while the term concha translates to shell. If you have ever seen these beautiful pastries, the name makes total sense. These lovely loaves look just like the delicate, multi-colored shells found along the seashore.
This recipe for conchas gives you the basic building blocks to make Mexican pan dulce, plus plenty of creative ideas to make the recipe your own. Color them, flavor them, and mark them with whatever fancy designs you see fit.
For more Mexican sweets, check out my Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies, Sweet Apple Empanadas, and Churros with Chocolate Sauce.
Watch my video below to see how I make these.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Active Dry Yeast – Be sure to choose the active or “double rise” yeast. Instant-rise yeast will not work.
- Milk – Use whole milk for the richest, softest bread.
- Butter – Adds a rich savoriness that harmonizes the recipe.
- Sugar – You’ll need granulated for the dough and powdered sugar for the topping.
- Eggs – These offer moisture, richness, and fluffiness to the batter.
- Vanilla – Enriches the sweetness and enhances the flavor of all the other ingredients
- Flour – Regular, all-purpose flour is the perfect fit.
- Topping/Craquelin – A mix of butter, sugar, flour, and vanilla form the scrumptious, crunchy topping.
HOW TO MAKE CONCHAS
1. Start the Dough. Use either the stovetop or microwave to heat the milk until it is just warm to the touch, about 110 degrees F. Mix in one tablespoon of sugar and the yeast, then allow 5 minutes for it to activate and get foamy. No foam means the yeast has died, and you’ll need a new batch.
2. Prepare the Wet Ingredients. Mix the vanilla extract with the eggs and set aside. Melt the butter and measure out the flour and sugar.
3. Combine Ingredients. Add the remaining sugar, salt, and 4.5 cups of flour to the bowl of a stand mixer. Blend the mixture with your fingers, then create a well in the center. Add the foamy, active yeast, melted butter, and vanilla egg mixture to the center well.
4. Mix the Dough. Mix everything together on medium-low speed for 8 minutes, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Since the dough will be slightly tacky, it is helpful to sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of flour inside the bowl to prevent sticking.
5. Set Aside to Rise. Lift the dough from the bowl with a rubber spatula, spray the bowl with cooking spray, and return the dough to the bowl. Cover with a light kitchen towel and set in a warm spot to rise. You want to give it about 2 hours, or enough time for it to double in size.
6. Make the Craquelin. Mix the powdered sugar, flour, softened butter, and vanilla together in a small bowl to form a smooth paste. Divide the topping into 12 balls, cover, and set aside.
7. Divide the Dough. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and prepare a clean floured surface. Start by dividing the dough in half, dividing those halves in half, and then dividing each quarter into 2 pieces. Roll into 12 balls and place 6 on each baking tray.
8. Add the Topping. Use plastic wrap and gentle pressure to flatten each craquelin ball into a flat disc large enough to cover the dough balls. Carefully peel back the plastic wrap and transfer the discs to the dough balls. Press down gently to adhere, then use a sharp knife to cut seashell patterns or other fancy designs in the topping of each pastry.
9. Set Aside to Rise. Cover the baking sheets and set aside for 30 minutes to rise. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
10. Bake the Conchas. Bake until the bottoms are a light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes.
How Do You Eat Pan Dulce?
Eat your Mexican pan dulce like you would any doughnut or pastry. This sensational little sweet bread makes an indulgent breakfast, a satisfying snack, and a decadent dessert. I recommend enjoying conchas with a glass of milk or a mug of chai tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. Feeling fancy? Add a shmear of cream cheese, peanut butter, or jam to your concha and let your heart sing!
What Do Mexican Conchas Taste Like?
Generally speaking, Mexican conchas are soft and buttery with a sweet, crunchy, vanilla-infused topping. However, depending on your tastes, a whole menagerie of different flavors might be applied.
Popular Pan Dulce Variations
No matter your preferences, there is a pan dulce recipe out there for you. In addition to vanilla, you could add any of your favorite flavorings, powders, or extracts. Some popular ingredients to add include:
- Pumpkin spice
- Cocoa powder
- Almond extract
- Lemon or orange extract
- Strawberry extract
- Mango extract
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Conchas or Pan Dulce
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup milk
- ½ cup butter melted
- 1/2 cup sugar divided
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4.5 cups all-purpose flour + 2-3 tbsp
- 1/2 cup butter room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Optional: substitute any food extract you prefer with the vanilla lemon, orange, mango, food coloring/gel, cinnamon powder, cocoa powder
- Heat the milk to 110°F either on stovetop or in a cup in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. It should be just warm to the touch. Stir in the yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes until it gets foamy. If it doesn’t, the yeast dead and you’ll need start again with new yeast.
- Add the vanilla to the eggs, mix and set aside. Melt the butter and weight the sugar and flour.
- In a mixer bowl add the 4.5 cups of flour, remaining sugar and salt. Stir through with fingers. Make a well in the center and add the egg and vanilla mixture, melted butter and the foamy, active yeast.
- Mix on medium-low speed for 8 minutes (or mix by hand), until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. The dough will be slightly tacky. You can sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of flour on the inside edge of the bowl to keep the dough from sticking.
- Using a rubber spatula scoop and lift the dough from the bowl, spritz the inside of bowl with cooking spray. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a light kitchen towel and let rise in a warm spot for 2 hours or doubled in size (See Note 1).
- In a bowl mix together the softened butter, powdered sugar, flour and vanilla until a smooth paste forms. Use as is or divide and add color and or flavors (See Note 2).
- Divide the topping into 12 balls and cover.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or use silicone mats.
- On a clean, floured surface scoop out the risen dough and divide in half (easier to handle). Roll each half into a thick log and divide lengthwise. Cut each half into 3 equal pieces. Repeat with other half. You should have 12 pieces of dough.
- Cup your hand over a ball of the dough and rotate in a circular motion to shape into a ball. Place 6 rolls on each prepared baking sheets.
- Roll the Topping balls: using plastic wrap so disks are large enough to cover the dough balls. I used a tortilla press with plastic wrap. Carefully peel off of the wrap and place over the top of each dough ball. Press gently to adhere. Using a sharp knife, cut a seashell design or any pattern you fancy. Repeat with remaining.
- Let rise, covered, for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Bake 20 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
- Store any leftover conchas in airtight container for up to 5 days.
- I either set the entire bowl in my microwave and close the door, place it in the oven with the light on, and I’ve even been know to turn the dryer on for a minute, then place the bowl in there, too. You just want a draft-free, warm place.
- I divided the paste into thirds. I used ½ teaspoon cinnamon + 5 drops red food coloring in one third, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder in another and left the other original vanilla flavored.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
These came out so fluffy and I loved the toppings. I made mango and cinnamon! I used freeze dried mango chips and ground them to put in the topping mix. Great recipe Kevin!
haha! That’s what I do to make the strawberry flavored, too (or you can use a extract)! Thanks so much for coming back to let me know Madeline!
They look delicious!
I hope you give these a go Melissa, they really are delicious!
Keven Your Pan Dulce are beautiful! These are challenging to make, at least the few times I have tried. My recipe uses lard instead of butter for both bread and craquelin. We actually called them “concha” as they look like shells. Living in so California. MY first experience eating them was going across the boarder from San Diego into Tijuana, Mexico early Saturday mornings for breakfast. So amazing to watch huge trays of sweet breads (dozens of varieties–collectively called pan dulce) lining the walls and so difficult to choose a few. This was back in the Mid 1970’s while in college. MY MIL was Mexican, but it was my Gand-mother in law who taught me to make pan dulce. Her favorite were empanadas calibacitas, or pumpkin empanadas. But these concha were regular offerings as well…Thanks for the walk down memory lane.
Thanks for the lovely comment here Judy, much appreciated. Enjoy!