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An assortment of pan dulce.
A concha, Mexican cookies and elotito on a platter. | John Watson / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Your Heartwarming Pan Dulce Stories

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A month ago, we asked, "How has pan dulce become part of your lives?," and we received some beautiful responses. Pan dulce is a staple of many special occasions and mark beautiful memories that last a lifetime. Here are some stories we collected from staff and readers:

Pan dulce was an occasional weekend treat when I was a kid. Now with my own daughter, I like to share the magic of pan dulce whenever I can; either to celebrate a special occasion or start an average day with some fun. Every conchita and puerquito makes us dance!
- Daniel Medina, 36

A delightful bowl of small child-sized sweet breads called conchita and puerquito.
A delightful bowl of small child-sized sweet breads called conchita and puerquito. | Daniel Medina

My dad used to work at a factory in Tijuana that was near a panadería called Don Balo. Whenever he felt like treating me, my brother and my mom (a pan dulce fiend), he would stop at Don Balo on the way home from work and come home with a white box of the best conchitas on the planet. They're a little firmer than most conchas but that makes them better in my book. They have bite to them. I heard Don Balo himself died a few years ago, but thankfully, the panadería is still there.
- Victoria, 25-year-old Tijuanense now working in L.A.

It's hard to choose a single story because pan dulce is sprinkled everywhere throughout my family history and my upbringing from panaderías like Guatemalteca Bakery, Panadería El Salvador, Pan Victoria, Pacific French Bakery to name a few. Whether it was the morning magdalenas con chocolate to celebrate birthdays in Guatemala (usually my late abuelita Carmen's), the pan de manteca for comfort at funeral services, the now-long gone 5 p.m. pan con café to share chisme (gossip) with my mom and sister, or just the everyday selection of quesadillas or ombligos my dad keeps on hand for his rushed morning treat before work, pan dulce has been a lifetime companion in my and my family's life.
- Carla, 36, Angelena with roots in Guatemala and El Salvador

One early morning I went to my favorite bakery, Panadria Herrera in Oxnard, owned by father Francisco Herrera (Don Pancho) and his three sons. My favorite conchas were still in the oven, so they invited to watch the art of making pan dulce with their skilled and talented hands.

In mere seconds, they cut out with a pig-shared cookie cutter, dozens of “puerquitos” ginger flavored little pig cookies. Then they rolled and sculpted the conches, the seashell shape bread, precisely cutting the scalloped line of the shell, then dusting with vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry sugar powders.

Don Pancho asked me to try the fresh out of the oven concha and asked if it was sweet enough. The soft dough bounced back leaving a thumb print mark on the surface. You could almost hear the ocean waves in these soft pillows of dough shaped like a conch shell. Don Pancho told me his secret ingredient…

I couldn’t let this tale go untold. That very night I wrote my first children’s book, Pan Dulce, later published by Scholastic. Now all children can read the story of Don Pancho and his secret ingredient for making his famous conchas!
- Kathleen Contreras, author

I don't show up to a party without bringing a big pink box of pan dulce from La Corona Bakery in Norwalk. Been coming to this panadería for years and I believe it's the best in my area. Their conchas are my favorite!
- Stacy

Living a block off Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica, I have my choice of sleek, inviting coffee shops to get morning coffee and pastry. But during the pandemic as small businesses and local eateries have struggled to survive, I’ve made it my personal mission to support some of the local ones with my purchases. La Monarca Bakery & Cafe at 1300 Wilshire is my regular coffee and pastry shop now. When I moved here from New York three years ago, I didn’t know what a concha was. (Or what Oaxacan coffee was.) Now, I’m a connoisseur and a daily customer. The hard-working counter staff is friendly and welcoming and my daily morning visit is an important part of my day.
- Gary E., 68-year-old retired Navy veteran

About This Story

This article is part of a collection of stories exploring the ways pan dulce has been a part of the Southern California sweetscape, connecting us to deeply-rooted traditions and the flavors of home. Find more stories in the pan dulce universe in this collection.

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