Pan dulce mexicano, or Mexican Sweet Bread, comes from a long line of traditional pastries and baked goods. These ones are sometimes known as conchas, or sea shells, due to their appearance when the dough is formed.
There are literally hundreds of types of pan dulce throughout Mexico, and enough panaderías, or bakeries, to keep churning them out. I love visiting these bakeries, grabbing a tray and proceeding to the pan dulce section. A pair of tongs is always available for customers to serve themselves, and I usually end up getting a variety of sweet breads before I'm done. Is there any chance I'll finish them in one sitting? Absolutely not, but they won't go to waste!
This recipe is for anyone who doesn't have an authentic panadería near them. It's been passed down for generations. Enjoy with a cup of champurrado or coffee, or all by itself. Either way, these conchas won’t disappoint!
On a flat surface or large cutting board, add the 2 cups of flour. To the flour, add 1 teaspoon yeast, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/3 cup sugar, mix with hands. Using your fingers, mix in the egg. Gradually mix in the water, the dough will be lumpy. Add in the cinnamon, anise and shortening. Knead the dough until smooth, about 5 to 7 minutes. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.
In another bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the filling. Mix with hands until dough forms. Make 15 small balls and roll them between the palms of your hands to form a skinny cigar shape, about 2 inches long. Transfer to a plate, cover and set aside.
Make 15 equal dough balls with the reserved dough. Using a tortilla press lined with wax paper, press the dough ball out to about 3 inches. Using a knife or metal spatula, score straight lines across the flattened dough. Turn it and score it again so it crosses the other lines. Carefully flip over and add filling down the center, fold in sides, press to seal. Pinch the end together and shape almost like an ear of corn. Place seam side down onto lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for about 20 minutes, turning pan halfway through baking time. Bake until golden. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.