Written from México City by Norma Ruiz of La Cocina de Norma
These are the famous Marranitos de Piloncillo, one of my country’s most traditional recipes. There are two types, the ones that are soft like the ones here, and the crunchy type. Both of them are equally delicious, but for now I’ll give you the recipe for the soft ones. They are also known by other names or synonyms of little pig, like: marranitos, puerquitos, and in some towns in the Gulf of Mexico they are called chichimbres, which is believed to be a deviation of the English word gingerbread, since the taste and texture resembles the latter.
Just to be clear, this is not the traditional recipe. I don’t have that one, as the people that do have it and sell the cookies in the streets of Mexico are very protective of their recipes and don’t share them, but I actually love this recipe and didn’t ask the street vendors for anything. I even think that these are better; the ones that they have are a lot darker, probably because they add molasses and that’s what makes them darker.
I have tried a ton of different recipes, but I’ve never liked any one until now. This recipe that I’ve used here is excellent, but if anyone out there has the original recipe and would like to share it with me, I would be eternally grateful.
SOFT MARRANITO COOKIES WITH PILONCILLO:
- 125 grams of grated piloncillo
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 cloves
- 1 star anise
- 1 all spice
- 300 grams of all-purpose flour (2 cups plus extra to work the dough)
- ¾ teaspoon of baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- 80 grams of vegetable shortening (5 tablespoons)
- 2 eggs for dough + 1 for glaze
- 1 piggy cookie cutter
Makes approximately 10 cookies or puerquitos using the original cookie cutter or 20 using a small cookie cutter.
* As I mentioned above, this is NOT the original recipe.
** The dough is a very soft dough and you will need to add extra flour while you knead it to give it the consistency of a dough for soft breads.
1. Break apart the piloncillo into smaller pieces and place in a small casserole. Add the water, cinnamon, cloves, and anise.
2. Place on medium heat until the piloncillo completely dissolves and has been reduced to syrup. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, strain and save for later.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and vegetable shortening and mix well.
4. Add the two (2) eggs and mix thoroughly.
5. Add the syrup to the dough and mix evenly.
6. Now, knead the dough a bit by hand (you will probably have to add some extra flour).
7. Store in a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
8. Once the dough has been refrigerated, it is time to cut the little piggies. There are two options for doing this:
8A. First Option: On a cookie sheet that has been greased with butter (or in my case covered with wax paper), spread out and flatten the dough with the rolling pin. Now cut the little piggies with the cookie cutter and remove the excess dough from the cookie sheet, leaving only the cookies.
8B. Second Option: Spread out and flatten the dough on another surface (I cut the plastic bag in half and use that); cut the puerquitos out with the cookie cutter and carefully transfer them onto the cookie sheet. Transferring the cookies isn’t that hard (it’s kind of like making tortillas by hand) but you must remember to be gentle since the dough is vey soft.
9. Continue like this until you’ve used up all of the dough. (I like the second option better).
10. When you have finished cutting out all of the cookies, brush them with some of the lightly beaten egg.
11. Place them in a 350°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes. (Remember to check them right after the 15 minutes since not all ovens are the same. The edges will look a little golden when the cookie is done). Remove from oven and place in a cooling rack.
I hope you enjoy them… they taste great!