Also known as ojo de pancha, this delicious Mexican sweet bread is quite a special treat. Let's dive in and learn about making ojos de buey!
If you love Mexican pan dulce, you'll also enjoy my recipes for manteconchas, mantecadas, and Rosca de Reyes.
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What are ojos de buey?
They are sweet breads, known as pan dulce in Spanish, that consist of a flaky bread ring filled with an orange-flavored pound cake. The bread part is rolled out and folded, much like puff pastry, then rolled in sugar and shaped into a ring, which is filled with the batter and baked.
The Spanish conquistadors of the 1500s brought wheat to Mexico, where local bakers incorporated it along with native ingredients to invent their own recipes. The French started coming to Mexico in the 1860s, and their pastries further influenced the Mexican sweet breads. Modern pan dulce (sweet bread) is a unique blend of these cultures.
Ojos de buey or ojos de pancha were reputedly created by a Chinese baker in Mexico back in the 1800s. They are supposed to resemble the eye of a bull, hence the name. Nowadays, this pastry is widely popular as a breakfast pastry throughout Mexico and the United States.
What do they taste like?
Ojos de buey aren't very sweet, but have a wonderful texture and delightful orange flavor. You'll get a bit of crunch from the sugar on the outside, and a fragrant crumbly cake in the middle. These definitely are wonderful treats!
How do you pronounce ojos de buey?
The name is literally pronounced oh-HO-s day BWEY. Check out this audio pronunciation.
Is it healthy?
No, they're not the healthiest dessert. Each ojo is 501 calories, 31g of fat, 51g of carbs, and 6g of protein. If you're watching your diet, I'd recommend enjoying half of one.
Can you freeze them?
Yes, they freeze really well! Make sure to let the ojos cool completely, then seal them inside of a zip-top bag and freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost in the microwave for 30-35 seconds.
How to Make
Gather the ingredients for the bread. You'll need flour, salt, yeast, unsalted butter, vanilla, water, and sugar.
Pour the flour into a bowl and add the salt and yeast on opposite sides. Mix each one in with your finger.
Add the vanilla and water and mix together to form a dry dough. You might need to add a little extra warm water. The dough should look like the photo below.
Knead on an unfloured surface for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretchy.
Divide the softened butter into three equal parts. Place the first part on the dough.
Knead until the butter is well combined, then repeat with the remaining two parts of butter. The dough will get quite sticky with all the butter in it.
Place the dough in the floury mixing bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.
Let the dough rise on the counter at room temperature until it's about doubled in size, roughly 45 minutes to an hour.
Punch it down and knead in a little more flour to make the dough workable.
Divide into 10 pieces. Roll each one into a rectangle about 10-11 inches long and fold into thirds, like a letter. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat.
Roll it out again to a rectangle and neaten the edges with a bench scraper, then cut it in half lengthwise.
Roll each strip in granulated sugar.
Pinch the ends of each strip together very firmly to form a ring. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Repeat with all the remaining dough; you should have about 20-22 rings.
Chill in the fridge until you're ready to use.
While the rings are chilling, let's make the cake filling. You'll need all-purpose flour, melted butter, oil, eggs, sugar, orange zest, baking powder, and milk.
Mix together all the ingredients except the butter and oil to make a paste.
Beat in the melted butter and oil until well combined.
Gradually add more milk as needed to give the dough a smooth consistency. It should fall in a smooth ribbon from the beaters.
Fill each ring halfway with the cake batter.
Bake the ojos at 400 F for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Let cool briefly on a wire rack, then enjoy with coffee.
- Don't want an orange flavor? Use 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract instead of the orange zest in the cake.
- Change it up by using a different citrus zest in the cake, such as lemon or lime.
- Be patient with the kneading. It will take a while (15 to 20 minutes) to incorporate all of the butter.
- Add more flour as needed. The brand of flour used and the humidity will affect the exact amount of flour you'll need to add on the work surface.
- Chill the rings as you're shaping the other ones to help them hold their shape.
- Be careful not to overfill; each ring should only be filled halfway with the batter.
- Check the center of the ojos with a toothpick to see if they're baked. The toothpick should come out clean.
- Bench Scraper: this is an essential tool for this recipe! You'll love using it.
- Kitchen Scale: this digital scale makes it easy to measure ingredients accurately.
- Measuring Cup: this glass measuring cup has a convenient pouring spout.
- Mexican Vanilla: this vanilla extract is the traditional kind used in Mexico.
- Bread Flour: this is my favorite brand of flour for making bread.
Other Sweet Bread Recipes
The pleasure of a 5-star review would be greatly appreciated.
Ojos de Buey Pan Recipe
For the Dough
- 4 ⅛ cups bread flour
- 3 teaspoons fast-action yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ⅓ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 cups bread flour, for rolling out
- ¾ cup granulated sugar, for coating the strips
For the Cake Filling
- 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 2 tablespoons orange zest
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
- ⅔ cup light-tasting olive oil
Making the Dough
- Pour the bread flour into a bowl and add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl. Stir each one in, making sure to keep them separate.
- Add the vanilla extract and the warm water and begin mixing to form a dough. If it looks a little dry, add more water. If the dough looks a little wet, add more flour. Keep in mind that you want a dry dough here, with some flour still at the bottom of the bowl.
- Turn the dough onto an unfloured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes to bring it together. The dough should be very smooth and elastic.
- Cube the butter and divide into three equal parts.
- Pat the dough into a circle, scatter ⅓ of the butter over the dough, and knead for a few minutes until all the butter is incorporated. Repeat with the second part, and then the third part. The dough will gradually become more sticky and buttery, so use a bench scraper if needed to fold the dough over itself.
- Gradually knead in some of the extra 3 cups of flour, using the bench scraper if needed. You may not need all the flour; you just want the dough to be not super sticky to the touch, but still soft and flexible.
- Place the dough in a floured bowl and sprinkle more flour on top. Cover with a clean tea towel and let it prove in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Shaping the Rings
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently. The dough will definitely be easier to handle than earlier, but still soft and a little sticky.
- Divide the dough into 10 equal piece, weighing them on a kitchen scale for accuracy.
- Flour the work surface and roll out one of the pieces into a skinny rectangle between 10-11 inches (25-30 cm) long. Fold the dough into three parts, as for a business letter, then turn the dough 90 degrees. Roll out into a rectangle, and fold again. This will create layers in the dough.
- Roll out the dough into a rectangle again, then trim the ends to neaten them. Cut it in half lengthwise to get two strips. Coat both sides of the strips with granulated sugar, then firmly pinch their ends together to create two rings of dough.
- Place the rings about 3 inches apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and chill in the fridge until ready to bake. Repeat steps 3 through 5 with the remaining pieces.
Making the Filling
- Put all the cake ingredients except the melted butter and oil in a medium mixing bowl. Mix them together with a spatula to form a dry paste.
- Add the melted butter and oil to the mixture and mix with an electric hand mixer until very smooth. If the batter is too thick, add a couple tablespoons of milk to thin it. The batter should fall in a continuous ribbon from the beaters when it’s the proper consistency.
- Check the batter to see if you can still see grains of sugar in it. If so, continue beating for about 30 seconds to dissolve the sugar. The finished batter should fall easily from a spoon, but have a thick consistency and form a V when falling from a spoon.
- Fill the chilled rings halfway with the batter.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes at 400 F. The ojos are cooked when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Let the ojos cool for at least 20 minutes on a wire rack, then enjoy with a hot cup of coffee.
- You may not need all the extra flour. Be to sure to feel the dough to see if it needs more flour or not.
- Kneading will take a while, so be patient.
- Be sure to test the consistency of the filling as described in the instructions.
- Be careful not to overfill the ojos, or they will overflow in the oven.
- Leftover ojos can freeze sealed in a zip-top freezer bag for up to 1 month.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.
Is this ok for high altitude?
Jessica, We haven't tested it at high altitudes because we live at sea level.
I was attracted to this recipe because I discovered this pastry at my favorite Mexican market and wondered about doing a butter version, rather than using oil for the pastry. I cut in half because we're only two people, and my favorite baking victim is on a fad diet at the moment. They came out looking like the photo and tasting really good. I kneaded the butter in by machine. I wonder whether brushing the dough with butter when doing the roll and folds would be good. I love that they aren't too sweet. We'll split one for breakfast with coffee and an egg or two for protein.
I'm so glad that you enjoyed the ojos so much, Ellen! Kneading the butter in by machine is a great idea; there's so much hands-on work in this recipe that one can get fatigued doing it all by hand.
I am sorry to say this recipe did not work out at all for me although I am an eperienced baker and have successfully made many types of Mexican bread and pan dulce. Unfortunately, I used the originally posted English measurements which meant there was twice as much butter as there should have been. I also had to add an additional 1/2 cup of milk to the filling, not another tablespoon or two, just to get it to a pourable consistncy. That means I ended up with three times the amount called for. In addition, when baked at 400 for the specified time, the fillng was quite done but the bread was raw where it met the filling. I tried lowering the heat after the first batch, but could not find the right combination of temperature and time. Perhaps the problem with the baking temperature/time stemmed from the increased amount of butter, but that does not explain the issue with the filling. Also, for me, the flavor was a little flat. I would try again with the correct amount of butter and add a tsp of vanilla to the filling, but given the other issues I don't think it would be worth the time.
I'm sorry that this recipe didn't work for you, Catherine. I've fixed the issue with the butter measurement in the dough. As far as the other issues you encountered, I'd recommend using an oven thermometer to ensure your oven is actually at 400 F, and rotating the pans halfway through the bake if your oven has hot or cold spots. Measuring the filling ingredients accurately will ensure a correct flavor and proper texture, and beating the cake filling long enough also helps it to be the correct consistency. I hope this recipe will be successful for you in the future.
The final product looks wonderful, but as there is an inconsistency in the conversions I am anxious about how they will turn out. I followed the English system measurements (cups) and not the metric (grams) and am hoping for the best. A half a cup of butter weighs 113 grams, so it is impossible for
2 2/3 cups to weigh 300 grams. The flour conversion appears to be correct.
Thank you for catching that mistake, Catherine. I meant to type in 1 1/3 cups of butter, but due to an error, I typed in 2 2/3 cups. I originally developed this recipe using the metric measurements, so that was the one that was correct.
Loved this recipe! Some of them split open. Any tips on keeping them together? Thanks!
We're thrilled that you enjoyed the ojos so much, Kaitlyn! As far as keeping them from splitting open, make sure to pinch the dough rings together quite firmly, and avoid having too much sugar on the seal, as it reduces the sticking. Also, be careful not to overfill the ojos.
Our ojos spread out and flatten as they bake. I was just wondering why that happens. Any suggestions?
Mine spread a little, too. The dough ring is soft and flexible, and the force of the rising cake in the center sometimes causes them to flatten a little. If you had a lot of flattening, make sure next time to chill the dough first and make sure there aren't any gaps where the cake batter can leak out. Hope this helps!
The outer crust is crispy, and I can taste a hint of orange in the cake. The cake part is light and fluffy, crumbly and delicious! I love the buttery and crunchy, sweet sugar on the outside.
I love the crunchy sugar crust, too!
The pastry-like bread coated with sugar encircling the cake is reminiscent of Rosca de Reyes. The orange cake in the center smells good and is soft. The bread is a bit chewy and the sugar coating makes it crunchy. Overall, it is delightfully crumbly and buttery.
Glad you enjoyed it, Beth!