Without a second thought, I knew I had to make these pan dulces - if not for the topping itself! This recipe from allrecipes.com makes two different toppings - cinnamon and vanilla flavored. Both are phenomenal, but the vanilla definitely transported me to my favorite Chinese bakery.
Pan Dulce (Mexican Sweet Bread)
adapted from AllRecipes.com
Makes 12 pan dulces
For the bread:
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup evaporated milk or half-half
3/8 cup white sugar*
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the topping:
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, stir together the yeast and warm water. Add the milk, sugar, melted butter, salt, egg and half of the flour to the same bowl. Gradually mix in the remaining flour, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Continue kneading the dough until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a large greased bowl, turning to coat the dough. Cover, and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, to make the topping - beat sugar and butter in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add the flour until the mixture is the consistency of thick paste or a cookie dough. Divide dough into two parts. Place in two separate bowls - add cinnamon to one part and vanilla to the other. Divide each portion of topping into 6 balls, and pat each ball down into flat rounds. Set aside.
Grease or line two baking sheets with parchment paper. When the dough has risen, cut into 12 equal pieces. Shape into balls, and place on baking sheet, leaving about 3 inches in between. Place topping rounds on top of the dough balls, patting down lightly. Use a pairing knife to cut grooves in the topping like a clam shell or any designs desired. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
*or 75 grams - I don't know about you, but 3/8 cups just doesn't register in my brain. So I used the allrecipes.com converter to view the recipe in metrics - grams and just used my scale to weigh out my ingredients.