Conchas!!

I would like to mark down March 10th, 2019 as a very special day in my life calendar, because it was the day that I made my first Concha, and I can already tell that we will have a long and happy life together. Also called Pan Dulce, these beautiful works of art are a Mexican bakery staple known for their intricately patterned tops, often resembling the swirl of a shell. A concha consists of two parts: a sweet cinnamon roll, and a crisp, colored (and sometimes flavored) streusel-like topping, which forms the crackly pattern on top. Whenever I used to come across pictures of these, I just assumed that some kind of baking pan or stamp was required and so I never really gave it much more thought. THEN, I came across this recipe from A Cozy Kitchen, and suddenly they were so attainable!!! No stamp needed, just a pairing knife, a steady hand, and some patience, and since I have two of those things, I once again took a bread-making quest that paid of incredibly well!

Almost as soon as you start this recipe, you will start to wonder why no one has managed to make a candle that can capture this scent exactly. No offense but the combination of fresh bread and cinnamon is the only thing that matters in this world. Truly. Anyway, if you thought these treats couldn’t get any better, boy do I have news for you! Something that is very fun and special about this recipe is that it’s totally customizable! By mixing different flavors and colors into your streusel topping, you are opening up so many possibilities here! You can add cocoa powder for a hint of chocolate, lemon zest, freeze dried berries, or combine several food colors for a rainbow pattern, and it’s 100% up to you! I kept mine on the simpler side for my first try, and used a red gel food coloring to give my Conchas a bright pink finish. From there, you could follow the traditional concha shaped top by cutting a shell pattern into the top (the bun rises and expands while baking to form the crackled top that these are known for), but you can also add concentric circles, stripes, grids, or any number of patterns and see how they turn out!

Before we get started, let’s all take a moment to appreciate these 5 things to be happy about today:
ONE. Falling asleep in the car on the way home from a long day.
TWO. Using something you had been saving for a special occasion.
THREE. An evening of zero productivity.
FOUR. An evening of extreme productivity.
FIVE. Asking for a booth at the restaurant.

 

MAKES: 12 buns with topping
PREP TIME: 30 minutes
RISING TIME: 2½ hours (divided)
BAKE TIME: 18-20 minutes

DOUGH INGREDIENTS

3 Tbsp. warm water
2½ tsp active dry yeast
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/3 white sugar
¾ cup evaporated milk
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs, at room temperature
4 cups all purpose flour

TOPPING INGREDIENTS

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
Gel food coloring of your choice or 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder

STEPS

ONE. Warm the bowl of your stand mixer by filling it with hot water and letting it sit for a minute. This will allow you to add warm water with the yeast and not have the heat change when it touches the cold metal bowl. Once the bowl is warmed, remove that water and add in the 3 tablespoons of warm water and yeast. Allow the yeast to bloom and get foamy, about 5-7 minutes. If it doesn’t foam up, your water was either too hot or too cold, or the yeast is no good, so you’ll have to start over.

TWO. When the yeast is ready, add in the oil, melted (and slightly cooled!) butter, sugar, evaporated milk, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, and eggs. Using the dough hook attachment, mix until the eggs are slightly broken up and everything is incorporated.

THREE. Add the flour all at once, and mix the dough on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until the dough is soft and smooth, and a little sticky. Coat a large bowl with oil or cooking spray and transfer the dough. Cover with a towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

FOUR. While your dough is rising, you can make the buttery streusel topping! Mix all the ingredients in your stand mixer until smooth and incorporated, then decide whether you want the topping to be chocolate (add the 2 tablespoons of cocoa) or colored (add gel food coloring of your choice!), or both! I went for pink this time but you can do whatever you want! Scoop out about a tablespoon’s worth of topping for each bun, I did this ahead of time so that the topping was ready when the bread was!

FIVE. After the bread dough has doubled, turn it out onto a baking mat or countertop and section it into 12 rolls. If you want to weigh them individually so that they’re even, you can, but I just eyeballed it. Shape them by hand into uniform, round buns and place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

SIX. Take each topping round and flatten it into a disk in your palms, then lay it over the top of each bun so that the top is totally covered. Repeat for all. Using a pairing knife, cut some patterns into the top- you can research some of the more traditional patterns here, but you can also do whatever you feel like! When all designs are done, cover the whole tray with a towel and allow the buns to rise again for another 30 minutes, until doubled in size again. Preheat your oven to 350ºF halfway through this second rise.

SEVEN. Bake the buns for 18-20 minutes, until they are lightly golden and the topping has spread into the classic concha shape. Best eaten soon after baking, with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate!!

YAY! xoxoxoxD

 

Valentine’s Day Cookies Year II

Hello and welcome to my second ever Valentine’s Day post!! Inspired as I always am by Molly Yeh, I have been making variations on these cookies ever since I came across the original recipe. They are versatile and greatly exceed any other sugar cookie you will ever make with the addition of lemon zest and almond extract, and that’s not even the HALF of it. These babies aren’t complete without a mirror-shiny glaze and a bit of buttercream on top, and the best part is you can do as little or as much as you want!

So because I have too much time on my hands and I’ve been trying to improve my piping skills, I set out to cover these cookies in some good old fashioned buttercream roses. I wore my comfiest clothes, put on my headphones and got to work. And, 2 hours later, I couldn’t flex my right hand out of piping position, but I ended up with some GOOD rose cookies and I was very satisfied. They were almost too pretty to eat….almost.

I’ll be honest, Valentine’s Day is not really my ~thing~, and although I can always count on a mini box of chocolates from my mom (LOVE YOU MOM!!), it’s easy to feel sad or simply indifferent on a day focused so much on love and relationships. My solution? Bake it out! Whether or not you have a Valentine to share the day with (@Harry Styles, call me), why not make the day that much cuter! (P.S. you can see last year’s version here, slightly different, just as cute!)

Before we bake, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
ONE. A rainbow of ribbons.
TWO. Chocolate covered cherries.
THREE. White on the evergreens.
FOUR.
Breaking out of an old routine.
FIVE. Bacon frying in cast iron skillets.

 

Let’s bake!

MAKES: About 3 dozen cookies
PREP TIME: 1 hour + decorating to your heart’s desire
BAKE TIME: 10 minutes

SUGAR COOKIE INGREDIENTS

4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
zest from ½ a lemon
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

SUGAR COOKIE STEPS

ONE. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and the sugars until the butter is pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon zest and mix to combine, then the vanilla and almond extracts. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix between each. Finally, add the flour mixture and mix until combined.

TWO. Turn the mixture out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and form a disc of dough. Tightly wrap the disc and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before proceeding. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375ºF and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

THREE. Cut the disc of dough in half (it’s easier to work with a smaller batch at a time), and roll out on a lightly floured surface until about a quarter to a half inch thick. Cut out your desired shapes and lay them on your prepared cookie sheets about 1 inch apart.

FOUR. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, until they’re just turning brown, and cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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GLAZE INGREDIENTS

4 cups confectioners sugar
¼ cup corn syrup
5 Tbsp whole milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
pinch of salt
1 tsp maraschino cherry liquid or food coloring (optional)

GLAZE STEPS

ONE. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined and smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more milk at a time, if it’s too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.

TWO, Once the cookies are cooled, carefully dip each cookie face down in the glaze, making sure the whole surface is coated, and then allow the excess to drip back into the bowl before placing the cookie back on a wire rack over a sheet of parchment paper (this will catch the drips and make cleanup soooo much easier). If you’re continuing with buttercream on top, let the cookies dry slightly, but if you’re just adding sprinkles, add them now before the glaze dries and you’re all set!

 

BUTTERCREAM INGREDIENTS

3¾ cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3-4 Tbsp whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Food coloring

BUTTERCREAM STEPS

ONE. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the softened butter and confectioners sugar together until incorporated- you may want to drape a dish towel over the bowl at the beginning, the mixer tends to throw a lot of loose sugar.

TWO. Add the milk a tablespoon at a time until the desired spreadable consistency is reached, keeping in mind that a slightly softer frosting will be easier to pipe with. Add the vanilla and food coloring (if using) and mix until thoroughly incorporated.

THREE. Fill a piping bag fitted with a coupler and decorating tip (the coupler allows you to switch tips without using multiple piping bags) and decorate away!! (Read here for some buttercream rose tips!)

Happy Valentine’s Day!! xoxoxoxoD

Passion Fruit Napoleons

Well well well, as you can see this week I really went for it, and baked a twist on one of my favorite bakery pastries. You know those GOOD Italian bakeries where all the pastries are lined up in rows upon rows of joy and they somehow get everything from eclairs to sfogliatelle just perfect? If I could live in one of those I would, and whenever I go, I’m faced with a choice between two things: the eclairs and the napoleons. Similar components, and yet so, so different, I have an almost impossible time deciding if it’s going to be an eclair day or a napoleon day.

BUT! Today, for all of you, is a glorious napoleon day. And not just any napoleon day, PASSION FRUIT napoleon day. It’s been so cold and sad this week and what better way to cheer up than with the fresh, sunny, summery flavor of passion fruit curd? If you close your eyes, you can almost feel the beachy breeze, can’t you? Well, maybe not quite. But anyway, as if that wasn’t enough, this passion fruit curd is mixed with a generous helping of pastry cream, sandwiched between buttery, crisp layers of puff pastry, then topped with a silky, chocolate ganache glaze. I know, I’m crying just typing this. Petition to change all wedding cakes to passion fruit napoleon stacks, who’s with me??

2 quick notes about this, I know that some people make their own puff pastry dough but I, however, did not. I am lazy and like to sleep late on Saturdays, which does not match with dough prep, so I am using the good old frozen, pre-made kind and I promise it’s good. If you feel like making your own, I admire you and your determination, best of luck. Also, I’m sure in a pinch you could buy pre-made passion fruit curd, but this recipe is pretty quick and easy, so 10/10 would recommend making your own.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
ONE. Soft pile rugs.
TWO. Piping hot biscuits.
THREE.
A kettle on a wood burning stove.
FOUR.
Someone who makes you happy by loving you, being alive with you, filling up your life.
FIVE. 
A hazy metropolitan skyline growing out of the horizon.

MAKES: 16 individual napoleons
PREP TIME: 1 hour, 30 minutes
BAKE TIME: ~20 minutes per tray

PASTRY CREAM INGREDIENTS
adapted from ZoeBakes

4 cups whole milk
1 cup white sugar, divided
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
½ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla bean paste/ extract, or 1 vanilla bean (pod and scrapped beans)
6 Tbsp cornstarch
2 eggs
6 egg yolks

PASTRY CREAM STEPS

ONE. Bring the milk, ½ cup sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt to a gentle boil in a saucepan on medium. Remove from heat.

TWO. In a medium heat-safe bowl, whisk together the remaining ½ cup sugar and the cornstarch to remove any lumps. Add the eggs and egg yolks, and mix until smooth.

THREE. Whisking constantly, carefully drizzle some of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture- this will bring the eggs and milk closer in temperature without cooking the eggs. Once the eggs are warm to the touch, transfer the entire egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and return to a boil, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken quickly, but continue to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes to stabilize it, this will set the custard and keep it from separating later.

FOUR. Strain the custard through a sieve to catch any stray cooked egg, then transfer to a glass bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap to the custard’s surface to prevent a skin forming. Chill the custard for 15 minutes in the freezer, then place in the fridge to cool completely before using.

 

PASSION FRUIT CURD INGREDIENTS

8 egg yolks
½ cup passion fruit juice
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1¼ sticks (10 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

PASSION FRUIT CURD STEPS

ONE. In a heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, passion fruit juice, and sugar until smooth. Cook on medium-high, stirring constantly and scraping the sides of the pot, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 8 to 10 minutes.

TWO. Remove the pan from the heat and add the salt and the cold butter, one piece at a time, stirring until all is incorporated. Strain through a sieve into a medium-sized bowl, and just like with the pastry cream, press a sheet of plastic wrap to the surface to prevent a skin forming while cooling. Chill in the refrigerator until completely cooled and set, at least 1 hour.

THREE. When both the curd and the pastry cream are cold, mix the fruit curd into the pastry cream until fully incorporated, then return to the fridge until you’re ready for assembly.

 

NAPOLEON PASTRY INGREDIENTS

2 packages frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

NAPOLEON PASTRY STEPS

ONE. Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Prepare your baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper. Cut each sheet of puff pastry into 6 equal pieces (3 vertical cuts, then horizontal halfway through) and lay out on the prepared baking sheets evenly.

TWO. Prick holes in each piece of pastry using a fork, then put a second sheet of parchment paper on top. Place another baking sheet of the same size (or a cooling rack) on top of the pastry to weigh it down. This will keep everything from puffing up too much and resulting in uneven heights. Bake until the strips are lightly golden, about 14 minutes. You’ll have to bake the pastry in batches to ensure even browning, one tray at a time.

THREE. At this point, remove the top tray and parchment paper, and bake for an additional 4-6 minutes until fully golden. Allow the pastry to cool completely. Once the pastry is cool, you may want to slice each square in half, the second baking tray weighs the pastry down but it still puffs up slightly and may be too thick to stack whole. 

 

NAPOLEON ASSEMBLY INGREDIENTS

 2/3 cup heavy cream
5 oz. dark semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 tsp corn syrup
Fresh raspberries, for garnish

NAPOLEON ASSEMBLY STEPS

ONE. Bring the heavy cream to just barely a boil, then remove from heat. Place the chopped dark chocolate into a bowl and pour the hot heavy cream over it and allow the chocolate to melt. Whisk in the corn syrup and set aside to cool.

TWO. To make each individual napoleon, we’ll be using 3 pieces of puff pastry, with 2 layers of pastry cream. If your puff pastry sizes aren’t all the same, feel free to trim them with a serrated knife to make them even and easier to stack. Start with a piece of puff pastry and carefully spread a layer of passion fruit pastry cream on top, leaving a half inch border on all sides.

 

THREE. Top with a second puff pastry and repeat with more pastry cream, again leaving a half inch border on all edges. For the final piece, spread a thin layer of the chocolate glaze on top and carefully place on top of the pastry cream layer. Top with raspberries.

FOUR. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the remaining pastries, then chill in the fridge for at least an hour to set. Now go open the bakery you were always meant to!

YUM! xoxoxoxD