13 June 2011
Normally, I stick to French and English but given 90% of the people I work with speak only Spanish, I figured I should learn sooner rather than later. My Spanish is broken at best, totally incomprehensible, at worst. I make an effort to get my point across. When in doubt, I just replace English words with French words in hopes that the Spanish equivalent is close enough that someone will understand me. There's definitely a lot of pointing and miming throughout my days.
Food can instantly break down language barriers. Everyone understands the smiling face of someone who has just eaten a yummy dish. Bakers the world over, strive to put this grin on the faces of everyone who tastes their breads. This baker is no different.
My Mexican friends often bring me amazing tamales for lunch. They watch in awe as I savor every last spicy bite of pollo, masa y chiles. I guess they figure a girl as white as me can't handle picante! I thought it would be nice to thank mi amigos the best way I know how...bake them bread.
Conchas are traditional Mexican sweet buns. They are made with a buttery, milky dough and topped with sugary crusts. The crust is cut to resemble a sea shell. "concha" is the Spanish word for shell. Typically, the shell-shaped crust is brightly colored and it may be flavored with cinnamon. My version of the Mexican favorite was made with a brioche dough (of course) and a chocolate crust. I ordered a concha topping cutter but it did not arrive in time for me to use it for my treats. I cut scallop-edged rings of chocolate sugar dough to top the brioche. The dough is topped right after the rolls are shaped. As the buns rise, the crust seals to them. As you can see in the photo, the crust cracks during the baking process, giving each concha a unique appearance. Though they may not have been the most traditional buns, my Conchas Americanas were a big hit with the staff.