I've talked about my friends' Cinco de Mayo party in a previous post, along with the recipes I've made to take which are not necessarily traditional Mexican dishes, but then neither again is the holiday itself!
This year, as the date approached, other media sources were building up with discussions of festivities and ways to participate, and NPR raised the topic of cochinitos, or "piggy cookies." These are not something I had heard of before, though apparently they are ubiquitous all over Mexico year-round. I suspect that now that I know them, I will notice them everywhere, but it was fun to make a new discovery. They are a cinnamon-spiced honey or molasses cookie in the shape of a pig.
The recipe called for piloncillo, a type of brown sugar that is packed in a cone shape. It can be cut from the cone with a serrated knife, or grated. I tried multiple ways to prepare it, because it is quite firm, including serrated and chef's knives, box grater, and microplane. I found the microplane to be easiest, though for this particular recipe, because it is combined with water until it dissolves, I don't think the sugar has to be prepared quite so carefully, just cut into small enough pieces that it can dissolve evenly.
On my trip to the Latin market to purchase some, I checked their bakery section for already made piggy cookies, which naturally they had. I bought a few so as to have a comparison with my homemade version. The cookies from the store were very molasses-y, but the texture was quite similar. I baked my cookies the day of the party, so as the recipe explains, they were very soft and cakey. The guests all raved about them (though I suspect that could partially have been a result of the only other dessert being some dry brownies), so we didn't have enough to last days and see how they tasted as they got a little crunchier.
[For the shape, I used a pancake mold that I happened to have from a set of farm animal shapes that had been given to me due to the sheep, and the pig and cow molds were just the bonus. If you know of any "cow cookie" recipes, send them my way!]
by Pati Jinich, from NPR.org
1 3/4 cups (10 ounces) firmly packed grated piloncillo (or dark brown sugar)
3/4 cup water
1 Ceylon cinnamon stick
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature, plus more for the cookie sheets
2 tablespoons honey
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature, plus
1 large egg, lightly beaten, for glaze
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the piloncillo, water, and cinnamon and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the piloncillo has dissolved and the liquid thickens to a light syrup. Turn off the heat and remove the cinnamon stick. Add the butter and honey and stir until they melt.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the piloncillo mixture. Mix with a rubber spatula until well combined. Add 2 of the eggs and stir until thoroughly mixed. The dough will be very sticky and gooey.
3. Place two long pieces of plastic wrap, one running horizontally and one vertically, in a medium bowl, letting the ends overhang the edges of the bowl. With a rubber spatula, scrape the dough onto the plastic wrap, then bring the edges of the wrap over the dough and secure tightly (leave the dough in the bowl). Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.
4. Preheat the oven to 375°F, with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Butter two cookie sheets.
5. Sprinkle flour on a work surface and a rolling pin. Cut the dough in half. Working with one piece at a time, roll out the dough about 1/4-inch thick. Using a 3-inch piggy cookie cutter, press straight down on the dough to cut out cookies, moving the cutter slightly on the work surface to make it easier to lift up the cookies. Gather the scraps into a ball and roll out again. Transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them about 1-inch apart. If the dough becomes too sticky, roll it into a ball, wrap it again in plastic wrap, and place it in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes before rolling again.
6. Gently brush the cookie tops with the remaining egg. Bake in batches for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and golden on top. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Sift confectioners' sugar on top of the cooled cookies.