If any of you have noticed the picture on my header, you know that these beauties have been a long time coming. I have had this recipe for awhile now (actually a combination of two) but the closer I got to Christmas, the more urgent it got for me to make sure this particular recipe was what I wanted. You see, in my family, along with lots of other Mexican families, having these with a hot mug of Mexican hot chocolate is a tradition of Christmas morning (along with tamales, of course). Let’s just say, the kids go more for these.
I know I have spoken about the glories of this food before in my Mexican Chocolate Cookies post. Really, though, the awesomeness of Pan Dulce, especially for a kid, is not to be underestimated. Whether they only eat the topping and give you back a half eaten naked sweet roll or get a little older and learn to appreciate it in its entirety dipped in hot Mexican chocolate, it is just a fantastic panadería (Mexican bakery) staple!
Me, being a little Mexican girl all grown up (with a BIG sweet tooth) can hardly believe that I actually baked these and had them taste authentic. This has been a process. First, I had found one recipe and I LOVED the topping but the bread was a big old mess. Second, I found a recipe where the bread was FANTASTIC but the topping came out too hard. It kept coming off instead of crumbling off. So I knew I needed to combine them and I would get it right. The only problem I had with these particular ones was the look. The topping spread out a bit too much. I think next time I will let them rise for about 30 minutes or so after I get them on the sheet pan and then put on the topping and let them continue rising.
I don’t know whether or not I will be able to make these for Christmas morning (I have a few other things to bake for that day, plus a favorite Christmas Eve party to get to) but I wanted to get these up in case anyone else wanted to try. However, like anyone who likes local ethnic food, I do have a few good panaderías that I frequent when the opportunity presents itself, so I am covered.
My GeekyLink for this week is Doctor Who again!!!!! Because as any Whovian knows, the Doctor Who Christmas Special (called The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, love it!), is coming up in one week, with the Best Of..Christmas Specials on Christmas Eve. So here it goes…Doctor Who-Christmas Video Selection Box we get three clips and a prequel, check them all out!
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
3 2/3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons shortening
5 large eggs
1/2 cup shortening (don’t use butter)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
food coloring (optional)
1 tablespoon cocoa and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
In a small bowl, slowly stir in and dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar in warm water. Let it stand 6-8 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, combine only 3 cups of the bread flour, the salt, sugar and shortening and blend thoroughly. Add yeast mixture and two eggs, and mix completely. Add the remaining eggs and mix. Add the remaining bread flour and mix until the dough forms a loose, soft and elastic dough. It should be sticky but firm enough to shape easily with buttered hands.
Butter your work surface and then work your dough into a 4×6 rectangle, 1 1/2 inches thick.
Cut into 16 medium or 24 small squares. I went ahead and made them into balls here because it was easier for me to have them be an even size by doing so because I had a hard time cutting the dough. Use a buttered pizza cutter. That was the winner for me. If you can cut your dough into even squares, just separate the pieces a bit to give them room to rise.
Cover lightly with plastic wrap for 1 1/2 hours and let your dough rise. In the meantime, make your topping.
Using a food processor or a stand mixer, add the shortening, sugars , flour and vanilla. If you want different colors separate your dough into two or three parts and add food coloring for yellow and pink or the cocoa powder and cinnamon for chocolate. When you are done coloring and/or flavoring your topping, wrap in waxed paper and chill until ready to use.
When your are ready to use, divide the topping into 16 pieces with your hands. Roll each piece into a ball and roll it out on a floured surface until it is large enough to cover each piece of dough, about 5 inches in diameter. You want your topping thin but you want it not to break. Place your topping circle on top of dough, it should completely cover dough. Use a sharp knife to cut lines across the top or a criss-cross pattern or do nothing and the topping will create its own cuts and cracks.
After the first rise, shape each dough square into a dome shaped circle. On either a lightly greased cookie sheet or parchment paper, place your rolls 2 inches apart. Let your rolls rise again in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
You can place your topping on top of your rolls immediately after placing them down to rise or wait until just before you place them in the oven. I did it immediately this time and as I said before I think next time I will wait until at least halfway through the rise.
Preheat oven to 350° and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Some recipes only use powdered sugar in the topping and while I may myself play around with the ratios, maybe 3/4 cup powdered sugar to 1/4 granulated instead, I still recommend using both.
I had better results rolling out the topping in between layers of plastic wrap (or maybe try wax paper).
While I did use a lightly greased cookie sheet to bake some of the pan dulce I also used parchment and I had better results baking with the parchment paper.