Marranitos, Little Piggy Mexican Cookies
Everybody loves marranitos, those piggy-shaped cookies that almost taste like ginger but no ginger here, it’s the piloncillo that you’re tasting. They are a Mexican bakery icon. They are also a sweet memory, childhood and adult, in Mexican American families of Texas.
This cookie recipe for Marranitos is from my new cookbook, “Don’t Count The Tortillas: The Art Of Texas Mexican Cooking.”
It took me more than a dozen times to get it right, to tweak the recipe until the cookie tasted just the way I remember it from my childhood, from the corner bakery in San Antonio’s Westside. It really does.
Leave me a comment about your reaction to the taste or to the visual image of the marranitos. I’d be interested especially in your memories,. The art of Texas Mexican cooking, just like other Mexican American art, comes from having the confidence to “claim knowledge based on your experience and that of your community,” (Castañeda, Antonia, August 16, 2017).
At the first bite, you’d swear they are gingerbread, but there is no ginger in these cookies, just the unique flavor of piloncillo, unrefined cane sugar, with just a hint of spices, including black pepper. This version is made with bread flour, which produces spongy, cake-like cookies. There is also a crispy version, but this is my favorite.
Ingredients (makes twenty 5-inch cookies)
1 1⁄4 cup piloncillo, firmly packed, 10 ounces by weight
1⁄4 cup water to dissolve the piloncillo
1⁄4 cup nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground star anise
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
3⁄4 cup unsulphured molasses
3 eggs, beaten
6 cups bread flour
1⁄2 cup water
For the Egg Wash
1 teaspoon milk
1. Preheat oven to 400 ̊F.
3. In a mixer, combine the dissolved piloncillo with the molasses, shortening, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and black pepper. Mix until completely smooth.
4. Add the eggs and 1⁄2 cup water and mix until thoroughly combined.
5. Sift together the flour and baking soda and mix in gradually to form a moist, sticky dough. Form into a flat round; wrap in plastic; and chill in the refrigerator for one to two hours.
6. On a well-floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll out the chilled dough to a 1⁄4-inch thickness and use a marranito cookie cutter to form the cookies into cute little piggies. Place them on a greased baking sheet and brush the tops with the egg wash.
7. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool the marranitos on a rack.
Your friends will be surprised to learn that the sharp, gingery taste comes from the flavor of piloncillo with spices. I serve these with a pot of café de olla.