Stuffed Pretzels

CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!

Oktoberfest has somewhat strayed from its roots. The first festival in 1810 was originally to celebrate the marriage of German Crown Prince Ludwig, who later became king, and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Since then, its become a decadent celebration of fall flavors and fine beers worldwide. This 16-day festival is a celebration of German culture, music, bratwurst, beer, pretzels and much more.

In keeping with Oktoberfest, I thought I would try my hand at making some pretzels this year.

Traditionally, pretzels are a baked bread product made from yeast dough and shaped into a twisted knot. Salt is the most common seasoning for pretzels but various sweet and savory options are now being used. The soft pretzels are eaten soon after they are baked while the hard pretzels have a longer shelf life.

The characteristic flavor and crust of a pretzel comes from the soda treatment. After being shaped, the dough is dipped in boiling water to which soda has been added and then baked. This treatment helps what is known as the Maillard reaction. The process of boiling the pretzels in soda water breaks the protein and increases the amino acid content in the dough, giving it an amazing crust.

Just for a bit of extra flavor, I am stuffing our pretzels. Should be good!

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Stuffed Pretzels
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Course Brunch, Lunch
Cuisine American, German
Servings
PRETZELS
Course Brunch, Lunch
Cuisine American, German
Servings
PRETZELS
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Pretzels
  1. In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, yeast & a pinch of salt; allow to sit for 5 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt & sugar. Add the frothy yeast mixture along with the melted butter; stir to combine. On a lightly floured work surface, knead dough for about 5 minutes & shape into a ball. Lightly butter the bowl, place the dough in it, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise for 45 minutes in a draft-free place.
  3. Prepare fillings. This can be done ahead of time which will make the process easier, if you wish.
Chicken Bacon Ranch Filling
  1. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crispy. Remove from skillet, blot on a paper towel & crumble. Place in a bowl & combine with cooked chicken, cheese & ranch dressing; toss until well mixed. Set aside.
Pulled Pork & Cheese Filling
  1. In a bowl, add pork filling ingredients & combine well. Set aside.
Bratwurst & Sauerkraut Filling
  1. In a skillet, sauté bratwurst until browned & cooked through. Drain on paper towel; place in a bowl with other bratwurst filling ingredients & combine well. Set aside.
Assembly
  1. After dough has risen, cut into 12 equal pieces & form each one into a 14-inch strand. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough, lengthwise then roll it out a bit widthwise.
  2. Divide each of your fillings into 4. Lay a line of filling down the center of each flattened pretzel. You will have 4 of each kind. Press the edges of the dough together to seal in the filling. Roll each strand back & forth to fully seal it up.
  3. Shape into a pretzel by twisting the two ends around each other then bring it back down over the body of the pretzel.
Boiling & Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Bring 3 cups of water & 1/3 cup baking soda to a low boil. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Dip each pretzel in soda water for 20 seconds, remove, using a slotted spoon to drain excess water. Lay pretzels on parchment lined baking sheet & brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
  3. Bake until tops turn golden brown, 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven & cool on wire rack.

Pulled Turkey Pizza w/ Rhubarb Chutney

In a time when people chatted over the fence rather than the internet, backyards had rhubarb patches. The big, old-fashioned plant with its huge ruffled green leaves is easy to grow and its extremely hardy. The same roots can produce rhubarb for up to 15 years. Pioneer women smuggled rhubarb cuttings across the plains, even though they were not supposed to take anything worth less than a dollar a pound because of the crowded covered wagon conditions.

Most often we cloak rhubarb in sugar for cake, cheesecake or pies. This recipe shifts rhubarb to the savory side, a chutney that is fabulous in pulled turkey pizza. This pizza concept changes up the usual tomato sauce base with a spiced rhubarb chutney. Chutney is good with pretty much everything and takes on unexpected flavors when paired with different foods.

This pizza was an experiment that turned out to be amazing with the combination of salty and sweet. The addition of a potato crust and some caramelized onions, what’s not to like?! Of course, you have to start with being a rhubarb lover.

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Pulled Turkey Pizza w/ Rhubarb Chutney
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Servings
SLICES
Ingredients
Rhubarb Chutney
Caramelized Onions
Potato Pizza Crust
Pulled Turkey
  • 250 gm pulled turkey Either slow roast some turkey thighs or pick up at a deli counter already cooked
Servings
SLICES
Ingredients
Rhubarb Chutney
Caramelized Onions
Potato Pizza Crust
Pulled Turkey
  • 250 gm pulled turkey Either slow roast some turkey thighs or pick up at a deli counter already cooked
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Instructions
Rhubarb Chutney
  1. In a large heavy pot, combine sugar, vinegar, ginger, cumin, cinnamon & pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb & onion; increase heat to medium high & cook until rhubarb is tender & mixture thickens. Cool completely. (I prefer to make this a day ahead).
Caramelized Onions
  1. In a skillet, heat oil until hot. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture has evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Add brown sugar, stirring until caramel brown in color. Remove from heat & cool. ( I prefer to make these a day ahead as well).
Potato Pizza Crust
  1. Cook potato in microwave, peel, mash & cool.
  2. Combine yeast with lukewarm water & allow to sit about 3 minutes until foamy. Add butter, salt, sour cream & potato; mix well.
  3. Stir in flour until completely blended. Turn onto lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until elastic & smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Turkey & Cheese
  1. If you are slow roasting your turkey thighs its best to have done this a day ahead so you had ample time to 'pull' the meat. Shred the cheese & set aside.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press potato dough into a 16-inch circle. Transfer dough (& paper) to a 14-inch pizza pan.
  3. Carefully spread 1 1/3 cups rhubarb chutney over bottom of pizza crust. Sprinkle with a bit of grated cheese.
  4. Layer with the pulled turkey meat & caramelized onions. Top with remaining grated cheese & bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is baked & cheese is melted. Remove from oven; cool slightly & slice.
Recipe Notes
  • When I slow roasted my turkey thighs for this pizza I used a covered roasting pan. To give them a nice flavor I poured a bottle of Zesty Italian Dressing over them. They were super tender & so flavorful, perfect for this pizza.
  • Alternatively, you can purchase the meat (either turkey or pork) as well as a pre-made pizza crust if time is of the essence.
  • We have also tried this pizza with pulled pork.
  • Any extra rhubarb chutney will come in handy for another kind of meal.

Turkish Borek w/ Beef, Leeks & Potato

Borek (buhr-ECK’) is an essential part of life in Turkey. They are made for any occasion and can be eaten at any time of the day.

There are many variations with different kinds of fillings (cheese, potato, meat), different ways to cook them (fried, baked), different kinds of dough (filo, puff), but in the end they are all called ‘borek’.

You might not have have heard of ‘yufka’, but you have probably already eaten it in the dessert called ‘baklava’. Yufka is used in a lot of traditional Turkish recipes. Some say that it may have been the earlier form of phyllo/filo dough.

The dough itself is made from wheat flour, water and a bit of salt. Yufka finds its way onto the table in the form of casseroles, strudel or a filled pastry roll as well as just flat bread. Traditional Turkish specialties such as borek are made from thin sheets of this wheat dough that are filled and rolled.

Brion & I have many wonderful memories of the holiday time we spent in Turkey some years ago.

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Turkish Borek w/ Beef, Leeks & Potato
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Instructions
Dough
  1. in a medium bowl, whisk together flour & salt. Make a well in the center & pour in the water & oil. Using your fingers, draw the flour in from the sides, working mixture into a sticky dough.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface & knead, adding more flour as necessary to prevent sticking, until the dough is smooth & elastic, about 3 minutes.
  3. Transfer to the mixing bowl, drizzle with a little bit of oil & turn to coat. Cover the dough with plastic wrap & allow to rest in a draft-free place for 4 hours.
Borek Filling
  1. In a saucepan, stir-fry ground meat with spices. Remove from saucepan, place in a bowl & set aside. Add 2 tablespoons oil to saucepan & sauté leeks & garlic until tender. Microwave potato, peel & mash with Parmesan cheese. Add leeks, garlic, potato & cheese to meat & spices. Season with salt & pepper to taste; combine well.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a round 11-inch diameter baking pan & set aside.
  2. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll the balls into very thin rounds, using more flour as needed to prevent sticking.
  3. On one side of the dough, put a line of filling. Try to build a continuous line. Divide the filling between the 2 rounds. Roll the dough making sure filling is in the whole length of the roll.
  4. Form a spiral with the meat roll in the baking pan, starting in the center. Add the second roll to complete the spiral, filling the pan. Brush borek with egg wash, making sure to brush all visible surfaces.
  5. Bake on middle rack for 45 minutes or until pastry is golden. Let it cool for a bit before serving. Borek is best when freshly baked, however it still tastes great if stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

Christmas Turkey Pizza

In 2019, Boston Pizza, a Canadian pizza chain created a Christmas pizza which literally consisted of a turkey dinner on top of a pizza crust.

The most notable aspect of their Christmas pizza was the ‘singing box’ it came in. The company had an advertising agency create a caroling delivery box. Using a play on ‘Carol of the Bells’, the jingle ran through the components of the holiday menu item: ‘cranberry sauce, gravy on top, turkey as well and also cheese. Why the cheese? Cause we love cheese, turkey & cheese, four kinds of cheese’.

Like those musical greeting cards that emit tinny tunes when you open them, the ‘Chorus of the Pizza’, playing box reportedly operated using a light senor device. When the box was opened, the music played, as soon as it closed, silence.

The singing box was to replicate carolers coming to your door, but it was better because they brought pizza and you didn’t have to stand awkwardly listening to people sing to you.

I’m not sure if Boston Pizza is using this kind of promotion in 2020, but based on their ad from 2019, I developed a Christmas pizza ‘copy cat’ recipe. Great taste and a nice way to use some leftover turkey.

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Christmas Turkey Pizza
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Servings
SLICES
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Instructions
Pizza Dough
  1. Cook potato, peel, mash & cool. In a small container, combine yeast with lukewarm water; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand about 3 minutes until foamy.
  2. In a large bowl, combine yeast/water, butter, salt, sour cream & potato; mix well.
  3. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 5-10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about an hour.
Herb Sauce
  1. In a skillet, melt butter; add herbs & cook for 2 minutes. Pour in your choice of either heavy cream OR chicken broth. Heat until hot, about 2 minutes more. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Set aside to cool slightly.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press dough into a 16-inch circle. Transfer with paper to either a 14-inch pizza pan or a flat baking sheet.
  3. Carefully spread the 1/2 cup herb sauce over the bottom of the pizza (leaving the outside ring without sauce). Sprinkle a bit of the cheese over sauce then layer with turkey & stuffing. Drizzle with turkey gravy & top with remaining cheese. If you prefer, brush the outside edge of the pizza ring with egg wash.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven & slice.
  5. When you are ready to serve, dot pizza with cranberry sauce or just let everyone put on their own.
Recipe Notes
  • As an alternate to the herb sauce, using 1/2 cup bottled lite Alfredo sauce w/ Parmesan cheese makes a good choice.

French Christmas Bread/ Gibassier

Among the world’s many artisan breads and cakes, the breakfast bread ‘gibassier’ is one of the most popular in the French tradition. This buttery, textured bread is somewhat like an Italian panettone. What makes gibassier unique, is the use of orange blossom water which gives the bread a distinct flavor that is difficult to replicate with any substitute.

The recipe appears to have originated in the rocky, southeast of France, in Lourmarin Village, Provence. Many believe that this generations-old treat is named after the mountain called Le Gibas, which forms part of the village’s horizon.

Gibassier can be shaped and made as one big round loaf or larger or smaller single serve breads. Whatever size they come in, they are slashed or snipped decoratively before they are baked to give the fleur de lis or snowflake appearance.

It is difficult to say whether gibassier is a biscuit, a pastry, doughnut or a cookie. One thing is for sure …. its taste is unique. Traditionally served at breakfast and is dipped into honey butter while it is still warm.

Each Christmas I enjoy to try making a Christmas bread from another culture. Of course, that means as an extra bonus, researching the food history behind it.

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French Christmas Bread/ Gibassier
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine European, French
Keyword Gibassier
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine water, yeast & 2 Tbsp sugar. Allow to sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, 1/4 cup sugar & aniseed. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture & add eggs, butter, orange blossom water, orange zest & candied orange peel. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Mix to make a 'shaggy' dough. Turn out on a floured surface & knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms, about 10 minutes.
  4. Place the dough into a lightly buttered bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
  5. Punch down the risen dough & turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two equal pieces & shape each one into a ball. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Flatten each ball of dough into a disc about 1.5 cm thick & place each one on one of the baking sheets. Cut the disc into 6 sections, leaving them connected at the center.
  6. Make a cut through the center of each section without cutting all the way through to the edge. Best to use something you can press straight down as opposed to dragging a knife through the dough. Pull the sections outward to separate & elongate them a little. Using your fingers, open out the slits & form a V-shape in the top of each section.
  7. Cover each loaf loosely with buttered plastic wrap. Set aside to rise in a draft-free place for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  9. Brush each loaf with a little egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden & baked through. Slide the loaves onto a wire rack & brush with honey butter while still warm or dust with sugar.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns

It doesn’t have to be fall to crave something pumpkin. It’s still a bit early for Halloween jack-o-lanterns but not too early for some pumpkin cinnamon rolls.

This recipe builds on the traditional cinnamon roll, but adds the magic of pumpkin and fall spices. The dough is more subtle, moist and not too sweet in taste. With the addition of pumpkin to the dough, it adds a nice vibrant orange color. The filling is the classic pumpkin pie spice mix, blended with butter and sugar. What makes the buns even more special is they are then ‘baked‘ in the spiced ‘sauce’ mixture. Last but not least, topped with some whole pumpkin seeds, adds a delicate crunchy texture.

Pumpkin, like zucchini, seem to grow in abundance so it is always nice when they can be used in either sweet or savory recipes.

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns
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Servings
BUNS
Ingredients
Dough
Filling
Servings
BUNS
Ingredients
Dough
Filling
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Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, add yeast, lukewarm water & 1 tsp sugar. Allow to sit about 10 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, butter, salt, cinnamon, eggs & pumpkin puree. Mix well. Add flour, one cup at a time, until well combined. Knead dough for about 8-10 minutes or until smooth & soft. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  3. While the buns are rising, place sauce ingredients (except pumpkin seeds), in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, while whisking, until sugar has dissolved & ingredients are combined. Remove from heat & set aside to cool for a few minutes while you are preparing the buns.
  4. In a small dish, combine filling ingredients, set aside.
  5. LIGHTLY butter a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Turn dough out onto a floured surface; roll out into a rectangle (about 12"x 18"), approximately 1/2-inch thickness. Spread the melted butter across the rolled out dough leaving 1/2-inch around the top edge. Sprinkle filling mixture over butter. Roll up tightly lengthwise towards the top edge. Using a sharp knife (or a string), cut dough into 12 slices. Place in prepared pan. Pour cooled sauce evenly over buns. You can reserve a bit for drizzling on top after they are baked if you wish.
  6. Cover the buns with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Set aside in a warm place for 20 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; allow to rest for a few minutes then drizzle with remaining sauce & sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.
Recipe Notes
  • Once the sauce is cooked & cooled, you can blend with a mixer or blender to keep it from separating if you wish.

Marinated Chicken & Artichoke Pizza

Pizza is one of the easiest meals you can make at home. I most always prefer to make my own crust but nothing wrong with a purchased one or some focaccia bread pizza crust. Once that crust part has been taken care of, its really just a matter of topping the pie with all your favorite ingredients and waiting for it to come out of the oven.

But of course, there are a number of things that can go wrong even so. You might think that there’s no such thing as too much cheese …. but there is. Cheese normally means a lot of grease, your pizza could fall apart under the weight of all that dairy.

Too many toppings can cause overly cooked crust or under-cooked toppings. Another thing I find super important, is making sure the toppings are sauteed so they are not releasing too much moisture into the crust.

Since Brion & I are both lovers of marinated artichokes, putting them on a pizza sounds real good. Artichokes are technically the flower buds of a thistle plant that hasn’t blossomed yet. Its kind of amazing to think we can enjoy these odd little culinary treats in so many ways.

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Marinated Chicken & Artichoke Pizza
Instructions
Pizza Dough
  1. Cook potato, peel, mash & cool. Combine yeast with lukewarm water; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand about 3 minutes until foamy. Add butter, salt, sour cream & potato, mix well.
  2. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Pizza Topping Prep
  1. Slice chicken into strips, saute in some drained artichoke marinade until most of it evaporates. Set aside.
  2. Saute mushrooms & onions in a teaspoon of butter until moisture evaporates. Set aside.
  3. Shred cheese. In a small dish combine spices.
  4. Drain sun-dried tomatoes & black olives, blot on paper towel & slice tomatoes.
  5. Cut each piece of (drained) artichoke in half.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press dough into a 16-inch circle. Transfer on paper to a baking sheet.
  3. Carefully spread the 1/2 cup marinara sauce over the bottom of pizza. Season with spice mixture. Sprinkle with a bit of cheese then layer with mushrooms, onion, chicken, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, olives & remaining cheese.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven & slice. If you prefer, brush the top of the outside (dough) ring with artichoke marinade either before or after baking.
Recipe Notes
  • If you like, press pizza dough into a 16 X 12-inch rectangle instead of a circular shape.

Blueberry Babka Rolls

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Today as we celebrate Mother’s Day, many special memories come to mind. My mother passed away in 1978 but even after 42 years, time has changed nothing. I still miss the sound of her voice, the wisdom in her advice, the stories of her life and just being in her presence. I miss her today as much as the day she left us and I always will.

It is also with very loving thoughts, I celebrate my mother-in-law, Dolores, for her loving and kind ways and for raising that ‘special’ man I love sharing my life with. Love to my sisters, who gave so much of themselves to be the great mom’s they are.

Babka ….. an old world beauty with roots in both the Jewish and Eastern European communities. A cake like, sweet yeast bread, richer than that of a cinnamon bun but not as rich as a Danish pastry. The name Babka means ‘little grandmother’ in many European languages.

Traditionally, babka was filled with seeds, nuts and sometimes even honey or filled with layers of cinnamon sugar or chocolate. This classic baked good has been making its way into every corner of the food world. A great babka dough is a blank canvas for almost any filling. Many other flavors have been developed and have become equally popular.

Fruit lovers can now indulge in apple-cinnamon or raspberry and apricot cream cheese babkas. There is also a Middle Eastern favorite using halva (sesame candy) or a completely savory version with sun-dried tomatoes.

This bread seems very fitting on our Mother’s Day blog.

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Blueberry Babka Rolls
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Servings
ROLLS
Ingredients
Babka Dough
Blueberry Filling
Streusel Topping
Servings
ROLLS
Ingredients
Babka Dough
Blueberry Filling
Streusel Topping
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Instructions
Babka Dough
  1. In a small bowl, place water & sprinkle with the yeast & a pinch of sugar; stir to combine. Allow to stand until frothy, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups of the flour, sugar & salt. Make a well in the center of the flour & add eggs, yolk & oil. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Mix the yeast, eggs & flour with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface & knead for about 10 minutes. If the dough seems very sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky. The dough has finished kneading when it is soft, smooth & holds a ball-shape.
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap & place in a draft-free area. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
Blueberry Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugars & salt. Add water & blueberries; cook until clear & bubbling. Remove from heat & add lemon juice; cool completely.
Streusel Topping
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, powdered sugar, salt & baking powdered. Cut butter into small chunks & add the flour mixture. Using your fingertips, work the butter into the flour mixture until it forms LARGE, coarse crumbs. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into a rectangle, roughly 40 X 60 cm (15" X 24"). Spread half of the filling on center third of the dough. Fold one of the sides over the center & spread the remaining filling on top. Next, put opposite side of the dough over all & gently press together.
  2. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut 15 strips, between 2 - 2.5 cm (3/4"-1") thick. Twist each strand of dough a few times then, holding one end between you thumb & forefinger, coil the dough to form a circle. Finish by pinching the outer end to the ring, so it holds the circular shape when baking. Repeat with remaining strips. Place rolls on lined baking sheet as you make them. Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap & set in a draft-free place until rolls have doubled in size.
Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush rolls with egg wash. Sprinkle streusel & chopped nuts evenly over the tops, pressing lightly so the crumbs adhere to the rolls. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven & place on a cooling rack.

Mexican Sweet Buns or ‘Conchas’

The quintessential Mexican ‘Conchas’ are a type of sweet roll topped with a cookie crust, shaped for it’s namesake, a seashell. Though its precise origin is not known, all conchas are made from an enriched, yeasted dough similar to brioche or challah. What isn’t really clear, is the point at which a baker decided to cover a small round of sweet dough with a thin layer of cookie dough and then bake it.

Traditionally, the bread roll itself is not flavored, but the cookie dough topping has either a vanilla or chocolate flavor. This topping is an essential element on the sweet roll but the color or the way it is scored or decorated can be done in many different ways. Sometimes, brown or white sugar or even colorful sprinkles are dusted over the topping.

Conchas are sometimes split in half horizontally and filled with anything from whipped cream, custard or even refried beans. Some bakeries have been experimenting with new concha flavors. Cinnamon, walnut, agave nectar with golden raisins and pecan flavor are some that have been introduced.

It seems that conchas are at their best when eaten fresh which makes good sense being made from a yeast dough. It’s going to be interesting to see if I can create some of these little conchas with such a mysterious past.

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Mexican Sweet Buns or 'Conchas'
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Sweet Buns
Servings
Ingredients
Sweet Buns
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Instructions
Sweet Dough
  1. In a dish, add yeast to lukewarm WATER & allow to sit for 5 minutes so yeast can activate. In a large bowl, whisk together lukewarm MILK, sugar, butter, salt & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine. Add flour, about a 1/3 at a time, combining after each addition. Once all the flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes. The dough should be elastic & slightly sticky but easy to handle.
  2. Place dough in a large greased bowl & turn the dough over to coat. Cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
Topping
  1. In a bowl, beat the sugar, margarine & vanilla together until light & fluffy. Stir in flour & mix until a thick dough forms. Add additional flour if needed. Divide dough into 3 or 4 even pieces & tint each with food color. If the dough becomes sticky from the food color, add more flour. Cover pieces with plastic wrap until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. When dough is ready, turn out on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 16 even pieces ( press dough into a 14 x 14-inch rectangle; with a sharp knife cut into 4 strips in each direction). Shape each dough piece into a ball by tucking the corners under ( don't roll between your palms, this will just deflate the dough & make it tough). Place dough buns on a large baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
  2. Roll out the topping pieces on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 2 1/2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter or pastry ring. Use the pastry ring to score lines into the dough to resemble the ridges on a seashell (concha). Transfer the scored topping dough rounds to the buns using an offset spatula. If the topping doesn't adhere naturally, use a pastry brush to apply a few dots of water on the underside before applying to the buns.
  3. Allow the buns to rise for about 40 minutes. Before its time to bake, preheat oven to 375 F. Bake buns for 18-20 minutes or until they are just lightly browned on the bottom.
Recipe Notes
  • The topping is made with margarine as it will yield a crunchy & flaky texture.

Rosca de Reyes

The tradition of a New Year’s Cake is one that spans countless cultures and is meant to symbolize wealth, prosperity, health and good luck for the coming year. The cake or bread usually contains symbolic items baked inside which is believed to give good luck to the receiver.

Most of the cakes are consumed at midnight on new year’s eve … though some cultures cut their cake on Christmas or the Epiphany on January 6th.

In January of 2019, Brion and I spent some vacation time in Merida, Mexico. We stayed at a wonderful boutique hotel called Hotel Del Peregrino. On the morning of January 6th we were served some Rosca de Reyes (cake/bread) at breakfast. This was the first time either of us had tasted this traditional bread. It was absolutely delicious and yes, you might have known, I would not only have to make some, but learn the history behind it.

January the 6th is a special day in Mexico, known as ‘Three Kings Day’, which represents the height of the Christmas season. This date marks the culmination of the 12 days of Christmas and commemorates the three wise men who traveled from afar, bearing gifts for the infant baby Jesus. The day when the wise men found the baby Jesus is known as Epiphany which is the event represented by the Rosca de Reyes.

The circular form of the rosca represents God’s eternal love which has no beginning or end. The dried candied fruits that adorn the bread symbolize the King’s crown, while the traditional figurines placed inside the bread represent the baby Jesus. Whoever finds this token is obligated to host an upcoming party on the occasion of ‘Candlemas Day’, a Christian holiday which occurs each year on February 2nd. The traditional menu for this event would be tamales and hot chocolate.

In researching the internet for a traditional recipe for the cake/bread it seems orange and vanilla were usually in the actual dough but as for the decorations, there were a lot of fruit and nut choices. Apart from the circular shape it looked like personal preference dictated your decoration design. Here’s my best interpretation of Rosca de Reyes!

Print Recipe
Rosca de Reyes
Instructions
Bread Dough
  1. In a small bowl, combine lukewarm water, yeast & a pinch of sugar; stir with a fork until dissolved. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes in a warm place until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, salt, anise seed & cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the flour & add eggs, yolk, cooled butter, orange zest & vanilla. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry; using a wooden spoon, mix until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms.
  3. Place on a lightly floured work surface & start kneading until you have a smooth dough. It will take about 10 minutes to get good results. Be careful not to add to much flour to your work area, the texture should be soft, smooth & holds a ball shape.
  4. Place in an buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Allow dough to proof in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 -2 hours.
Bread Decoration
  1. In a bowl, cream butter with sugar; add egg yolk & mix until combined. Add flour & continue to mix until a soft dough forms. Refrigerate if your not quite ready to use it yet.
Assembly
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. When dough has doubled in size, turn onto a lightly floured surface & knead a few times. Shape the dough into a large ring & place it on the prepared baking sheet. Seal the ends to close the ring. Loosely cover with buttered plastic wrap & allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or more until almost doubled in volume.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small dish, whisk together egg wash. Divide the 'decoration dough' into 4-6 equal sections. Roll each with your hands until you get a strip long enough to decorate the ring. Brush dough with egg wash.
  3. Place the 'decoration dough' strips around the ring, try to place them facing one another, then decorate the ring with candied or dry fruit such as mango, pineapple, cherries, figs, citron, orange or lemon peel or quince paste strips or any personal choice you wish. Once the ring is decorated, sprinkle it with sugar & sliced almonds.
  4. Bake the bread for 20 minutes or until the bread is a nice golden brown color. Ovens vary so it may take a bit longer. Transfer bread to a wire rack to cool. After bread has cooled insert the plastic baby dolls from the bottom of bread. Some times the plastic dolls are inserted into the bread before baking, personally I think inserting them afterwards works just fine.