Donuts are my thing. Yes, a fitness and nutrition coach with a donut addiction. I confess but it’s true. I even worked in a donut shop for several years and can tell you from personal experience that when they say you’ll get tired of them, they lie! (By the way if you want more donut recipes, just do a quick search in the box on the right for donut, and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts.)
When you decide to make changes to improve your health, there will be things you’re willing to give up and things you aren’t. Donuts are one of the things I’m not willing to give up. I do have standards since I no longer am a Junk Food Queen with a donut crown. Instead of settling for plain old donuts, I turned it into a crazy adventure to make it special.
When The Kid and I go to new cities or on road trips, I look for artisan donut places and plan a splurge. It’s a fun way to indulge and also to experience the local flavors and interpretations. I pick two flavors that are unique, have a couple bites of each, and the leftovers come home to the freezer for another taste. This summer I got a Dirty Zebra and a Toasted Crunch in Galveston, and I finally got to my bucket list donut store, Voodoo Doughnuts in Austin.
When we hit San Antonio last week, I did my usual search and was horrified to discover there were no local artisan donut shops to be found. If there were, they were well hidden. After I got past the initial trauma (AKA temper tantrum), I stopped and gave it some thought. We were deep in the heart of a different culture in Texas… there were Mexican influences all around! There’s no better local flavor than that, so I got to googling.
I found an authentic Mexican bakery called a panaderia with rave reviews that was right down the road. I decided to try pan dulce which is a Mexican sweet bread and very similar to my donut love. If you aren’t familiar with them, they come in different shapes and flavors. I decided on a vanilla concha which is named because of it’s shell pattern in the sugar topping. The panaderia was so authentic that I had to point to what I wanted and do a lot of smiling and nodding.
It was delicious! Since all of the panes dulce contained forms of leche, The Kid couldn’t have one. (Please don’t miss my incredible mastery of the Spanish baking language. I only learned enough to get me through ordering again, LOL.) I experimented and came up with a dairy free concha recipe and was excited at how simple it was. It takes a little time since you have to let the dough rise, but it’s not active time and you can do other things while you wait.
Vegan Vanilla Conchas
- 2/3 cup water, lukewarm
- 1 Tbsp active dry yeast, not fast acting
- 1/4 cup (60g) sugar, divided
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk, lukewarm
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup (56g) vegan spread like Smart Balance or Earth Balance
- 3 1/2 cups (420g) all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
For the sugar topping:
- 1/4 cup (60g) sugar
- 1/4 cup (48g) butter flavor Crisco
- 1/2 cup (60g) all purpose flour
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, yeast, and 1 tsp sugar. Mix well and let it sit for about 5 minutes to activate the yeast and get foamy. Mix the almond milk and apple cider vinegar in a separate bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes as well.
Once the yeast is ready, add the almond milk mixture, remaining sugar, butter spread, 2 cups of the flour and salt. Carefully begin to mix everything together. Gradually add in the remaining flour, kneading slightly as you go. Once all the ingredients have been mixed in and the dough begins to form a ball, knead the dough with your hands until it comes together and is smooth elastic about 6-8 minutes. You can also do this step if you have a mixer with a dough hook.
Place the dough ball in a large greased bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and place in a warm location. Since it’s summer, I put mine in the garage. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size, about 90 minutes. Just before the dough is ready, prepare the sugar topping. Combine the sugar, Crisco, flour, and vanilla. Mix with your hands until a thick dough forms.
When the concha dough has finished rising, punch it down with your hands and knead for another minute or two. Divide the dough into 12 equal sized balls and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Take the sugar topping and divide it into 12 equal balls. Press and flatten a sugar balls until it is large enough to cover the top of a concha. Place the sugar topping on top of a concha and repeat until all 12 are done.
Take a sharp knife and cut slits into the sugar topping to create a shell pattern. You are just cutting a design in the sugar and not all the way through the dough. I made about 4-5 cuts per concha. Cover them with a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake bake the conchas for 14-16 minutes, or until the bottoms are lightly browned.
Remove from oven and cool slightly. Makes 12 conchas at approximately 219 calories each – 4g protein, 35g carbs, and 7g fat.
You can get creative and add flavoring or food coloring to the sugar topping to make them fun and festive. Try making the cuts in different patterns for a unique look that’s all yours. I’ve got a donut journal to document the events and adventures. I’m already looking forward to the fun on our next trip and the boring donuts at home just won’t do.
Don’t turn healthy eating into deprivation but make it fun. Life is too short for chicken and broccoli.