A Glossary of Your Favorite Breads
Is there anything better than a freshly baked, pillowy, buttery concha with its crunchy, vanilla-flavored streusel topping molded to look like a seashell, with a steaming clay mug of cafe de olla as the sun is rising? No, absolutely nothing.
Pan dulce is as vital to Mexican cuisine as the tortilla and it is about time that you start addressing them by their proper names. While their overall flavor and texture may differ from panaderia to panaderia—some might use condensed milk instead of milk for an extra layer of richness and others might use vegetable shortening instead of lard or butter to save money—their core shape and flavor remains the same.
Here is a list of the key pan dulce varietals to know.
These are the slightly bready, dark brown cookies that are shaped like a little pig. They are typically tender on the inside with crispy corners. Their dark brown color comes from piloncillo, the Mexican-style unrefined brown sugar that is shaped like a cone. It is used to sweeten the dough. These are perfect with a tall glass of chilled milk.
The most iconic of them all is also the simplest: a slightly sweet, brioche-like roll that is topped with a thin layer of crunchy vanilla or chocolate flavored strudel. Make sure to eat this with a mug of instant coffee with creamer to complete the traditional, authentic experience.
This cinnamon-flavored pan dulce, with its contours and cylindrical shape, looks like an abstract ear of corn. Hence the name! Once you take your first big bite, you will discover a surprise filling of slightly softer, denser, vanilla-flavored bread. It’s always rolled in sugar, so it pairs well with a mug of thick, hot Mexican chocolate.
These nutty, brittle shortbreads get their name from their powdery texture. Sometimes, they are combined with ground nuts or toasted ground corn for an even deeper dimension of nuttiness. They usually disintegrate as soon as they are inside your mouth. Feel free to dunk these in cold milk as well.