I once lived in Southern California in and around Los Angeles where Mexican bakeries abound. I once was in love with pan dulce (sweet bread) and it was abundant. I then picked up and moved to Northern California, to Humboldt County. Here, there are no Mexican bakeries and there is one place to get good mexican food, a taco truck, and the taco truck doesn't make pan dulce. After a long stint of self pity and an apprehension about going forth into the world of mexican baked goods I decided that Dia de los Muertos would be the time to make some pan de muertos (pan dulce with bones and such on top). So I got a hold of three recipes and made one for a Holloween party. They were pretty great and I was quite thrilled. I didn't have a camera back then so no pictures, but they were a little ugly because of my poor attempt at making skulls and bones out of the topping. Anyhoo, yesterday was my second attempt and I used the second of my three recipes. Here they are:
These are quite wonderful. The recipe I used this time called for four eggs as opposed to the one egg I used the first time and yesterday when I tried one fresh, the crumb was a bit too moist and rich for pan dulce. This morning though, as I eat one now I see that it has dried out a bit and is perfect. I think this recipe might work well with three eggs...I'll have to try it. This recipe came from the chow.com website. It was adapted from Richard Sandoval's (?) recipe. Mine is an adaptation of their adaptation, as I changed several things.
Here you go:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon anise seed, coursely ground
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 4 large eggs
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, salt, anise seed, yeast, milk, water, butter and 1 cup of the flour.
- Stir in eggs and beat well. Add remaining flour, little by little, stirring well with a wooden spoon until dough comes together.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 9 to 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic, and no longer sticky. It will be tacky and very soft. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow it to rise until it has doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours).
- While dough is rising, make the topping. Cream butter and sugar well. Stir in vanilla and flour until it comes together in a cohesive mass. Set aside.
- Once the dough has doubled, heat oven to 350°F. Punch down dough and divide into pieces. I did six pieces, and they all seemed fairly small but once they were all baked up they were huge, much larger than a single serving. Try 8 or maybe 10 pieces. Form into tight balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Turn topping out onto the counter and pat into a rectangle. Dive into however many pieces of dough you have. Pat each peice out into a flat disk (don't worry too much about the roundness of the thing). Place each topping disk on top of a dough ball. Let rise for an hour.
- Once they are ready to go into the oven, slash the topping. Make several curved slashes which begin at a single point and fan out. The shape of this bread and the slashes of the topping is what gives this pan dulce the name concha (shell). My slashes didn't go down into the dough, just the topping. My loaves did rip a little though which I didn't mind. If you want to take this opportunity to score the dough a little, I'm sure that would be ok.
- Bake at 350°F, I baked mine in the sheet pan on top of my baking stone. After about 15 minutes rotate the pan and then bake for another 15 minutes or until the internal temperature has reached 200.
I highly recommend not eating them all on the first day, save some for tomorrow, it'll be worth it. Here are some more pictures of the process as it played out:
proofed and slashed balls
Baked pan dulce
pan dulce crumb
Enjoy. My apologies for the lack of weight measurements, I'm waiting until I make the third recipe and pick my favorite to go through and convert the recipe to weight.