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Concha cookies spin a favorite Mexican bread into a new sweet treat

(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post/food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)
Concha Cookies
Active time:1 hour 15 mins
Total time:2 hours 15 mins
Servings:Makes 26 cookies
Active time:1 hour 15 mins
Total time:2 hours 15 mins
Servings:Makes 26 cookies

This recipe is an homage to the traditional concha bread I grew up eating in Mexico. It keeps all the delicious orange blossom and vanilla flavors but uses them in a cookie. The crust is a vanilla craquelin, the same recipe I use for the bread and my favorite part of this pastry. The smell coming out of the oven when you bake them is like being in Mexico again.

Concha is not only big for the nostalgia factor, it’s also a staple of Mexican viennoiserie. The problem you can run into with this pastry is often just plain dry bread. But the vanilla crust, that delicious crunchy and buttery crust, is the main reason you will keep eating it over and over. Here, that crust goes well with the tender cookie.

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Concha Cookies

Concha cutters, which have a seashell shape, can be found online and are traditionally made of aluminum. Aim for a 2 1/2-inch cutter, but a larger one will transfer the pattern well, too. If you can’t find one, use the back of a knife dusted in flour to make a square pattern or a round cookie cutter to create the series of seashell cuts.

Make Ahead: The prepped dough balls can be frozen for up to 2 months. After you have shaped and pressed them with the cutter, transfer them on a baking sheet to the freezer. Once they’re solid, pack into an airtight container or bag and freeze until ready to use. Bake straight from the freezer, adding 1 to 3 minutes of bake time.

Storage: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 2 months. The crust is very delicate, so make sure there’s enough room or cushioning in between the cookies.

Where to Buy: Orange blossom water can be found at Middle Eastern and other international markets, or online.

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Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup (133 grams) granulated sugar
  • Generous 1/3 cup (80 grams) vegetable shortening (may substitute softened unsalted butter)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 drops pink gel food coloring (optional; may use other color of your choice)

For the cookies

  • 2 1/3 cups (300 grams) cake flour, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons/155 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange (about 1 teaspoon)

Step 1

Make the crust: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a large bowl and a hand mixer, beat together the all-purpose flour, sugar, shortening and vanilla on medium speed until a soft dough forms, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the food coloring, if using, and mix again on medium until evenly distributed. (You can also divide the crust in half and add the coloring to one portion to get conchas of two colors.) You need the fat to emulsify, so don’t worry about overmixing. Transfer to a medium bowl and wipe out the mixer bowl to make the cookie dough.

Step 2

Make the cookies: In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt until thoroughly combined.

Step 3

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a large bowl and a hand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium until smooth, creamy and somewhat fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the egg and beat again on medium until combined, followed by the orange blossom water, vanilla and orange zest, and mix again until incorporated; scrape down the bowl.


Step 4

Add the flour mixture to the bowl and mix on medium-low until a soft dough forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for 1 hour.

Step 5

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.


Step 6

Use your hands to pull off heaping 1-tablespoon (25-gram) portions of dough and roll them into smooth balls about 1 inch wide, setting them about 2 inches apart on the prepared sheets. Using your palm, gently press to flatten until they are a little less than 2 inches wide.

Step 7

Pull off 2-teaspoon (10-gram) portions of the crust mixture and roll into smooth balls. Press between your hands and flatten into something like a small tortilla, placing each portion on top of the individual dough balls. Aim to have the crust portions slightly wider than the cookie balls so that when placed on top, they drape over the sides somewhat.

Step 8

In a bowl or in a little pile on the counter, dip the concha cutter in a few tablespoons of cake flour. Use the cutter to press the seashell pattern on top of the dough balls. Press just hard enough to flatten the cookies a bit more and leave an imprint on the surface. Don’t cut all the way down. Be sure to dust the cutter before you press each dough ball.


Step 9

Bake the two sheets for 9 to 12 minutes, just until the edges of the cookies start drying, rotating from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. You don’t want to add much color to the cookies. Let the cookies rest on the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Nutrition Information

Per cookie

Calories: 127; Total Fat: 7 g; Saturated Fat: 4 g; Cholesterol: 21 mg; Sodium: 32 mg; Carbohydrates: 15 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugar: 10 g; Protein: 1 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.


From pastry chef Isabel Coss of Lutèce in Washington.

Tested by Becky Krystal; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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