It’s time for recipe two (out of I have no idea how many recipes yet) of my Baking with Tea series! I formed a plan for my flavors early on going into this week because I was generously gifted fresh honey from my beekeeper friend! The decision about what to actually make, though, was a rather spontaneous one: after an original plan to develop a cupcake recipe, I began feeling a itch to work with enriched dough instead! So, I sat down on my laptop fifteen minutes before the time I’d allocated for baking that day, and I began randomly reading about sweet bread recipes from around the world. Conchas immediately caught my attention, especially because I had, surprisingly, never seen them before–I realized that it was surprising when I called my sister to excitedly fill her in about my discovery, and she already knew exactly what I was talking about!
For those of you like me who are new to them, a concha is a Mexican dessert that consists of a sweet, enriched dough bun and topping much like a crisp cookie dough. They’re often decorated with patterns that evoke their name–concha is the Spanish word for seashell. There are similar versions of this concept in other cuisines, including a Japanese sweet called melonpan (melonpan often visually correlate to their name as well, with designs more like melons than shells).
I couldn’t believe that I’d never been exposed to either striking dessert! Being the token “baking nerd” among most of my friends and family, I sometimes feel like it’s my duty to be a foolproof well of dessert knowledge. When my sister informed me of her familiarity with these, then, my first honest reaction was embarrassment–I wanted to take back the innocent explanation I’d done and pretend that I’d known what they were all along. Of course, my sister did not find any issue in the fact that they were new to me. She was simply excited to hear that I was making them and that she could picture an idea of what I might come up with!
The reason I elaborated on our conversation is because this is quite a familiar situation for me. As a perfectionist, an older sibling, a type A personality, an Enneagram type 2, and probably every other stereotype that connects to those, one of my biggest fears is failure. My worst nightmare life experiences involve some form of appearing weak or incapable. I once joined a group of guys playing catch with a football at a party (an activity that I’ve enjoyed for years), and upon walking over to receive the first throw to me, I missed the ball, and it proceeded to smack me right in the center of my forehead. Sure it hurt a little, but the only significant pain I felt was in my very soul–my stomach was still in knots of humiliation by the NEXT MORNING.
It’s funny–well, mostly funny– looking back at those situations now: it seems silly how upset I could get over something hilarious like that. In fact, the panic about everyone suddenly questioning my athletic ability significantly hindered my chances of enjoying the rest of that fun afternoon! I assume I’m not alone in my tendency to protect my ego– we’ve all blindly nodded in conversations to avoid admitting we don’t know what someone is referencing, or sidestepped a question when it’s incorrectly expected that we know the answer. No one aspires to feel inferior around their peers.
That’s something I’ve really been challenging myself to change, though–that mindset of constantly twisting others’ knowledge and strength into my own inferiority. Because if I go around pretending I know everything (I’m speaking from experience as a 100% former child know-it-all), then I’m naturally squandering my opportunities to learn! It’s hard to listen well to someone or engage fully in an activity when all you’re thinking about is how you can keep up your facade…of keeping up.
So, the next time someone asks you if you know about a relevant news headline that’s actually news to you, or looks for your opinion about an artist or author you’ve never heard of in your life, or encourages you to participate in a task you fear you’ll mess up–embrace the unfamiliarity! Ask all the questions, admit you need further explanations, and throw away the fears of showing your humanity. Together, let’s do our best to remember that each day we do so becomes a chance to leave stronger and more knowledgeable than the one before. Wishing you plenty of baking, failing, and learning during this quarantine.
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:5, 7
Lavender Chamomile Honey Conchas (Vegan aside from the honey! It’s organic)
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp yeast)
- 1/3 cup aquafaba (liquid from canned chickpeas)
- 1/2 cup melted margarine
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 lavender chamomile tea bags
- 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP honey (plus more for drizzling at the end)
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
- 2/3 cup vegetable shortening
- 2/3 cup sugar (vegan if desired)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 lavender chamomile tea bags
- 1/4 tsp salt
- food coloring/fruit juice for dying (optional)
- Warm milk in a microwave-safe bowl/cup (It should be lukewarm, around 105-110°F). Mix in yeast packet, and set aside until activated–yeast should get a bit puffy.
- In a large bowl, combine margarine, contents of tea bags, salt, aquafaba and honey. Mix well.
- Once the yeast is activated, add it to bowl and mix in.
- Mix in flour in multiple additions, until it’s all incorporated.
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead until very smooth and elastic–use more flour as needed to avoid sticking, but as little as possible is best. Use the windowpane test if you’re familiar with it to judge when it’s ready.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl, and flip it to coat the dough.
- Cover, and allow to rise until doubled in size (time with vary with environment; mine took up to three hours in certain conditions).
- Meanwhile, make the topping: combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix until it come together (using your hands is messy at first but most effective, in my opinion). It should hold together when pressed without cracking. If you added juice for coloring, you may need to add a bit more flour to keep it from getting too wet. Set it aside.
- Prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment paper or greasing.
- After the dough has risen, gently punch it down, turn it out onto a floured surface, and separate into twelve even sections. Gently form each section into a ball by pulling the dough out and down into itself, and place them on the baking sheets (Leave lots of room between because they GROW).
- Separate the topping dough into twelve even amounts. Using a tortilla press or rolling pin, press each piece into a wide circle, flouring the rolling pin or press to avoid sticking.
- Place each circle on top of one of the buns as you make them, gently pressing the bottom edges to the bun and cutting off any excess.
- Using a sharp knife, score desired patterns into the topping dough of each bun.
- Gently cover with cling film/wet paper towels, and allow to rise until visibly puffed, around 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Bake the buns in the preheated oven for about 18-20 minutes, or until the bottoms are slightly browned. (I actually prefer the temperature a bit higher, but it becomes easy to burn them at 350°F, so be especially cautious if you choose that route!)
- Drizzle with honey, and enjoy immediately!