A springtime variation of traditional Mexican Sweet Breads made with strawberry powder and vanilla beans.
FOR THE PRE FERMENT
- 1/2 cup (123 gram) lukewarm water
- heaping 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) active dry yeast
- 1 1/3 cups (171 grams) bread flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
FOR THE CHALLAH BREAD
- 2 1/2 cups (330 grams) bread flour, plus maybe a sprinkle more for shaping
- 3 tablespoons (42 grams) granulated sugar (add a tablespoon more if you’d like the rolls a bit sweeter)
- 2 1/4 teaspoon (15 grams) kosher salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoon (5 grams) active dry yeast
- the risen and deflated pre ferment (about 290 grams), cut into walnut size pieces
- 3 large egg yolks, beaten
- 1/4 cup warm milk (about 62 grams), plus 2 more tablespoons if needed
- 3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for coating the bowl
FOR THE TOPPING
- 3 cups (381 grams) bread flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup plus 5 tablespoons (296 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups (252 grams) powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla bean pod, seeds scrapped
- 2 – 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 1/4 cup dehydrated strawberry powder
- red, yellow, and green food coloring
- Start by making the pre ferment the night before you’re going to make the bread dough. It will need to rest in the refrigerator for anytime between 8 and 24 hours.
- Stir the water and yeast together in a medium bowl. Add the flour and salt. Use a spoon to stir the mixture into a shaggy dough. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before refrigerating the mixture for 8 hours to 24 hours. I’ve also had success leaving the mixture at room temperature for 4-6 hours total. There is no need to return it to room temperature before using it if you refrigerated your pre ferment. Deflate it with a wooden spoon or floured fingertips before breaking into pieces to add into the bread dough.
- To make the challah bread, place the bread flour, granulated sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir to combine. Add the pre ferment chunks, egg yolks, milk, and butter and stir into a very shaggy dough with a spatula. Mix on low speed with the dough hook until the dry ingredients are completely incorporated and the yeast has disappeared into the dough. Add a little extra milk if this hasn’t happened in 3 minutes. This will be a thick dough on the dry/firm side but there shouldn’t be dry patches of ingredients. Add a few more tablespoons of milk if this is the case. Increase the speed to medium speed and mix until the dough is smooth, pulls away from the sides of the bowl, has a bit of shine, and makes a slapping noise against the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes. The dough will look smooth and feel slightly tacky. I like to remove the dough from the bowl and knead by hand towards the end to get a feel for it and help smooth it further.
- Coat the inside of a large bowl with butter and transfer the dough to it. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature until the dough is puffy and supple, about 1 1/2 hours.
- While the dough is rising, make the concha topping. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
- Place the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds and beat to combine. Add the flour mixture and 2 tablespoons of milk and beat until just combined. Keep more milk on hand to incorporate later if needed. The dough should be thick like sugar cookie dough.
- Divide the dough in four. Most of the dough will be divided into red and white portions (for the strawberry and daisy shapes). Set aside a scant 1/2 cup of the topping mixture to dye yellow and green for the daisy centers and strawberry leaves.
- Wrap one large portion of the topping dough in plastic wrap. This will be for our daisies.
- Place the other large portion of topping dough in a medium bowl and add strawberry powder, a few drops of red food coloring and a teaspoon of milk. Stir with a spoon and eventually knead with your hands to evenly incorporate the strawberry powder and dye.
- With the two remaining small portions of topping dough, tint each with a few drops of yellow and green food coloring and stir and knead until the color is well incorporated. Wrap each color of topping dough in a disk in plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature until ready to use.
- Let’s work with our risen dough and shape our rolls. Tip the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead to a smooth ball. Weigh the dough and divide into 12 equal pieces (2 1/2-ounces or about 70g each).
- Form each piece into a roll (using the pictures in the blog post above) and transfer the rolls to a parchment lined baking sheets. Gently brush each roll with egg wash, cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside to rise while you cut your topping shapes.
- Next we’ll make our topping shapes – daisies first. Roll the white topping dough between the two pieces of parchment paper, roll the topping to about 1/2-inch thick. Remove the top parchment, and using a 2 1/2-inch flower cookie cutter, cut 6 flower shapes. You can save the scraps to reroll. Roll the yellow topping dough between the same two pieces of parchment and cut 1-inch circles with a small biscuit cutter (or you can freehand them!)
- Gently score the flowers using a small paring knife, being sure not to cut fully through each flower.
- Let’s make the strawberries. Roll the strawberry topping dough between two pieces of parchment and use a small paring knife to cut 3 to 4-inch strawberry shapes, 6 in total. Use a small offset spatula to lift the shapes onto a clean piece of counter. Score the strawberries with a few vertical lines, and dot with a few yellow seeds. Roll the green topping dough and cut a few leaves. Press them into the top of the strawberry shapes.
- Gently top each lightly risen roll with either a flower or a strawberry. The topping shape will relax around the dough as the roll rises so don’t feel the need to press it down into the shape of the roll right away.
- Let the conchas stand at room temperature until they puff slightly and the dough holds indentations when pressed lightly, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes after they’ve been initially shaped. As they rise, the topping will bend and start to cover the top of the dough.
- Place racks in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bake the puffed conchas until the base is golden brown and the topping is firm to the touch, about 18 to 20 minutes.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy warm or at room temperature with milky coffee Store in plastic bags for up to 4 days. I like these best the day after they’re baked.
This recipe calls for bread flour but I’ve also made it with all-purpose flour in the same amounts with great success.