Let me blow your mind for a second. In Mexico, there exists an item known as the whipped-cream filled concha.
One concha. Two halves. Whipped center.
It’s a concha sandwich. With sweet sugared cream for the filling.
I found these conchas at Pastelería Suiza, a bakery in Condesa known for its Rosca de Reyes cakes. The place is charming — it opened in 1942 — but I hadn’t been a fan, due to a mediocre pan de muerto I bought there a few years ago.
Recently, a local chef saw one of my business cards, which are printed with pictures of conchas. She mentioned that one of her staff members adored Pastelería Suiza’s conchas.
I tried twice, and failed, to arrive at Pastelería Suiza when the conchas were coming out of the oven. Finally today around 10:30 a.m., there they were: a tray of conchas lined up in a row, bellies bulging with cream. I bought one cream-filled and two plain, and waited while the cashier wrapped the package carefully in paper and twine. Taking it home, I felt a little bit like bursting into song.
She even wrapped the conchas with strips of cardboard — anti-smoosh protectors, if you will, ensuring that the rolls remained fluffy.
These conchas got an A+ for presentation alone. And I really, really wanted to like them.
However… the cream-filled conchas were too sweet. Mixing the whipped cream with sugar was overload — I felt like I was eating a Hostess cupcake. Plain whipped cream would’ve allowed the bread and topping to shine. (And not make me feel like I need to brush my teeth afterward.)
The plain conchas were the lightest I’ve tried in a long time. The roll sliced easily with my serrated knife, and it had just a whisper of orange blossoms, probably from the addition of orange-blossom water. Unfortunately the crumb was too dry. A bit more butter — not Matisse amounts, but just a wee bit more — would’ve been nice.
I’m still conflicted about whether adding more butter is true to the concha’s original history. I’d love to research early concha recipes, but I’m not sure they even exist. My copy of the Nuevo Cocinero Mexicano, originally printed in 1888, mentions conchas only in a savory context — the word referred to oyster shells and various ways to fill them.
Here’s my final rating on Pastelería Suiza. I’d eat the plain ones again, but they wouldn’t be my first pick.
So where should I go next? Anyone have any ideas on where I can research panaderías in Mexico?