As everyone knows, a festive Cinco de Mayo celebration includes margaritas, guacamole and tortilla chips, tacos and salsa, enchiladas, and tres leches cake. In addtion to those great foods, I’d like to suggest that this year you start celebrating in the morning on May 5th (or any morning of the year!) with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate and these beautiful Mexican breakfast rolls for Cinco de Mayo that are known as conchas or pan dulce. These gorgeous rolls with a shocking pink or lemon yellow topping will have you shouting ¡arriba, arriba! and doing the la cucaracha dance just because you feel so festive.
The rolls start out as an easy not-too-sweet yeast bread dough that’s similar to brioche and includes eggs, milk, and butter. After the dough is mixed, cover it and let it rise until it’s doubled; mine only took 30 minutes in my rising bucket.
While that’s rising, you make a topping that’s similar to a plain sugar cookie dough and looks kind of boring. You can use it that way…
…but here’s a fun alternative. Divide that plain topping into two pieces and add gel food coloring, then mix it in with a rubber spatula. I’m crazy about bright colors so I used these two traditional ones, but you can make them any color you want, or add ground cinnamon or cocoa powder to the topping dough instead of coloring it. Cover and put the topping in the refrigerator while the yeast dough rises.
Once the yeast dough has doubled, deflate it and shape it into round balls (just like making dinner rolls), and space them out on a prepared sheet pan so they’ve got room to expand. I made my rolls 2-1/2 oz (~70 grams) each and got 13 large rolls.
Divide the topping dough into the same number of pieces as the rolls and pat each piece into a flat circle. I found it easiest to do it in my hand, then I laid it on top of a roll and used my hands to form it around the dough. When all the rolls have their topping, mark them with a design in the shape of a shell (concha) like mine, or with cross-hatching. You can use a special cutter, do it free-hand with a paring knife, or do it what I did and use a biscuit cutter to make off-center partial circles.
Here’s a fun 8-minute video that’s definitely worth watching. It shows how conchas are made in a commercial bakery; be sure to expand the video to the whole screen. If you want, skip to the 3:55 mark and you’ll see that it’s not necessary to fuss over the rolls when you add the topping! They were making conchas with cinnamon topping and chocolate topping instead of food coloring. Using a special cutter to mark the design on top makes that part of the process go super fast, but doing it free-hand is easy and doesn’t take long. I didn’t squash my rolls like the video shows the pros doing, but from now on I’m going to smack those suckers flat and just slap on the topping!
For their final rise, I covered the conchas with a lightly oiled piece of waxed paper, then a tea towel.
These are doubled and ready to go in the oven. You can see how the design spread apart as the rolls rose. Sometimes the topping breaks up a bit, but that’s perfectly fine. Compare the photos before and after rising and you’ll see how much they’ve expanded.
Bake the rolls until you can see that they’re light golden brown under the topping and an instant read thermometer registers 200°F to 205°F when inserted into the middle of a couple of the rolls.
Mexican breakfast rolls bake up light and fluffy with a nice crunch from the topping.
They’re great for dunking in a cup of hot coffee, but I suggest you try them at least once with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate, available in the ethnic section of your grocery store. I make it with whole milk in a 2 quart pan on top of the stove, then I use my immersion blender in it after the chocolate tablet is dissolved to make the hot chocolate smooth and foamy. Mmmmmm, delicioso!
This year, start your morning with Mexican breakfast rolls for Cinco de Mayo and you’ll decide that they’re so easy to make and so delicious that you won’t wait a year to serve them again!
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Thanks, and buen provecho!
- 2-1/4 teaspoons (1 pkg) instant or active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup (4 fluid oz, 118 grams) warm filtered water, 100°F to 105°F
- 1/2 cup (4 fluid oz, 118 grams) whole milk, 100°F to 105°F
- 1/3 cup (2-1/2 oz, 70 grams) granulated sugar
- 4 cups (17 oz, 480 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz, 56 grams) salted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz, 56 grams) salted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (3-1/2 oz, 100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup (3-1/8 oz, 90 grams) all-purpose flour
- gel food coloring
- ground cinnamon
- unsweetened cocoa powder
- Dissolve the yeast in warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Using the flat paddle, add the milk, sugar, butter, salt, eggs, and half the flour. and mix on low speed until just combined, then switch to the dough hook.
- Add the remaining flour and knead on speed 2 for 8 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to an oiled rising bucket or large bowl and turn the dough to coat with the oil.
- Cover the container with its lid or put plastic wrap on the bowl, and allow the dough to rise until doubled, 30 to 60 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the sugar cookie topping by using a hand mixer to beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla together in a medium bowl until light and fluffy.
- With the mixer on low, add the flour and mix until a thick dough forms.
- Divide dough in half and tint each with food color, using a rubber spatula to mix until the food color is evenly distributed.
- See NOTES if you prefer to use cocoa powder or ground cinnamon, instead of gel food colors.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready for use.
- When the roll dough has doubled, turn it out onto a lightly oiled surface and divide into 12 to 14 even pieces.
- Shape each piece into a ball and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Remove the topping from the refrigerator and divide into the same number of pieces as the rolls.
- Pat a piece of topping into a flat circle big enough to cover the top of a roll then firmly press it down onto a roll. Repeat with the remaining topping and rolls.
- When all of the rolls are covered with the topping dough, make a pattern of your choosing on the top.
- Lightly cover the buns with waxed paper and a tea towel, and let them rise for 45 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Bake the buns for 18-20 minutes, or until they are fragrant, you can see that the tops are starting to get golden brown under the topping, and they register 200°F to 205°F with an instant read thermometer.
- The rolls are best eaten warm, if possible, but you can make them a day ahead and microwave them for about 10 seconds. Store the rolls uncovered to keep the topping from getting soft.
Total recipe time shown does not include rising times; actual total time is approximately 3 hours from start to finish.
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