Although these cookies are called Piggies, they should be called Flying Piggies and have wings attached given how fast they fly away from my kitchen each time I make them. Sometimes it is even hard to bake them out of a batch of dough, since my boys find the dough irresistible: gooey, sticky and deliciously sweet. After they sneak away and find ways to eat some, they have a hard time waiting for the dough to harden in the refrigerator, so it becomes really easy to roll it out and give it fun shapes. More often than not, the Piggies end up looking like fierce lions or magical dragons.
With firm and clean edges, the Piggies are deceiving. You can’t tell that their texture is so soft and almost bread-like until you take a bite. They also have a wholesome and small Pueblo flavor. I think that’s because the main ingredient, Piloncillo (sometimes called Panela) is simply sugar cane juice typically shaped into cones. It’s easy to find in plenty of grocery stores as well as online, but you can also substitute Piloncillo with brown sugar and get the same charming feel. Combine all the above characteristics and you get an incredibly comforting cookie.
Growing up in Mexico I remember my mother would make them on lazy weekend afternoons or as special treats before bedtime. My sisters and I would gobble them down with a glass of whole milk on the side. Now I make them often for my boys. Yet, I try to be sneaky and make them when they are not at home so they won’t finish all the dough before they are done.
Makes 30 medium sized cookies (with aprox 4” cookie cutter)
12 oz piloncillo, chopped or grated, or substitute for 1¾ cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup water
1 true or Ceylon cinnamon stick, of 2” to 3” length
2 sticks or 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
4¼ cups all purpose flour, may need a bit more
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
Butter to grease cookie/baking sheet
2 to 3 tablespoons all purpose flour, a bit more or less, to roll out the dough
1 egg, lightly beaten to be used as glaze
Confectioners’ sugar to sprinkle on top, optional
In a saucepan, combine the grated piloncillo or dark brown sugar with the water and cinnamon. Heat over medium heat and once it simmers, adjust and lower heat to keep it at a low-medium simmer for about 15 minutes, or until it thickens to a light syrup consistency. Turn off the heat and remove the cinnamon stick. You should have now about 1 ¼ cups piloncillo liquid. Add the butter and the honey into the hot liquid, and stir until it dissolves.
In a mixing bowl mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a whole in the center and pour the piloncillo mixture. With a spatula mix it all together in an evolving motion until it is well incorporated. Lightly beat 2 eggs and incorporate into the dough. The dough will be sticky and gooey.
Place enough plastic wrap in the bottom of a mixing bowl to have wings on the sides. With a spatula, push the dough onto the plastic wrap, wrap the dough, and refrigerate anywhere from 3 hrs to overnight.
When ready to make the cookies, preheat oven to 375. Grease a couple cookie/baking sheets with butter. If using one sheet you may need to do a couple batches.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. In a countertop, sprinkle a couple tablespoons of flour. Rub a bit of flour on the rolling pin as well. Roll dough until you have about ¼” thickness. Using piggie cookie cutters (or other animals or shapes, but then you may need to change the name!), press down on dough, moving a bit on countertop, to make it easier to lift the shaped dough up.
Place the Piggies on the baking sheet as you shape them along. Gently brush cookie tops with lightly beaten egg. Roll the extra already used dough, wrap with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 10 minutes before using again, or it will be too soft and sticky. Repeat to make remaining cookies.
Bake cookies in middle rack of the oven anywhere from 7 to 9 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on cooling rack. You may sprinkle with confectioners sugar on top. Enjoy with a glass of milk.
Patricia Jinich was born and raised in Mexico City. Pati is a cooking instructor, food writer and official Chef of the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington D.C. Previously a political analyst and obsessively thinking about food rather than politics, she left her job to pursue her overarching passion: Mexican cuisine. She dedicates her time (except when she is with her three boys, sometimes not cooking) to research, cook, teach and write about it. Visit Patricia at patismexicantable.com.
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