Listen here, America. I’m borrowing a catch-phrase from the great Bernie Mac because we need to have a little chat. Our nation is, has been, and always will be in a state of constant flux. The golden days of being racist without consequences are coming to a close and the cultural short-sightedness that treats non-white people as “the other” is dying off. It’s happening in all sectors of American life, perhaps no place more than with food.
This is good news of course. Because you get to not be racist AND eat delicious stuff. The late Anthony Bourdain understood the communal power of eating together. Aside from being a necessity, food is an invitation to a culture — it connects people on a personal and sensory level. When you eat a new cuisine you are, for that moment, part of something bigger than yourself.
In the spirit of cultural appreciation, let’s break some delicious bread and find some common ground so we can do better than the generations before ours. What bread shall we break? Pan Dulce, of course. Spanish for “Sweet Bread,” Pan Dulce is the marriage of European craft and Mexican ingenuity. Superior to the donut (come at me), cheaper and more versatile than cookies, Pan Dulce is the perfect breakfast bread or lunchtime diversion or late night snack. As straightforward as this sounds, the world of Pan Dulce is a deep one — with literally hundreds of different varieties.
To help guide any newbies, I’m going to outline some of the most common pastries you can find in a Mexican Panadería.
The Concha has become the signature pan dulce. It’s hard not to find the familiar shape with its distinct candied designs in every panadería. This pastry is sweet, airy, and a bit dry. The streusel-like topping is where all the flavor is at, and can vastly alter the taste of the concha you choose. Everyone in your family, or friend circle, or whoever you might enjoy eating bread with will have their own preferred concha flavor and it’ll say a lot about their character. Definitely judge people based on what bread they like, it’s practically a science!
The concha is named for its shape and is Spanish for “seashell.” The Vanilla and Chocolate varieties are a sure find at any Panaderia, and the larger bakeries generally have other flavors like pink and yellow. (You may be saying “But pink and yellow are colors” and you’d be right. But it would also be impossible to confidently say that the pink flavor is strawberry and who even knows what the yellow is supposed to be.) You’re bound to make an absolute mess while you eat a concha as the candied dust just crumbles with every bite, but you’ll quickly find that messiness won’t stop you from picking up another, as the airy and buttery qualities of the bread and candied sugar make it very addicting.
Eat a concha for breakfast with coffee or hot chocolate, it’s perfect for dipping.