Cochinito cookies, as pictured from "Pati's Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking."

Cochinito cookies, as pictured from “Pati’s Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking.” (Photo/Courtesy Penny De Los Santos)

Holiday Recipes: Traditional Mexican cookies

Chef and television personality Pati Jinich is famous for whipping up a variety of traditional Mexican dishes, but just like any other mom, it’s her baking skills that have helped earn her a sweet spot in the hearts of her three boys.  And during the holiday season, she’s turning to two cookie recipes to help make her celebrations extra special.

“To be able to recreate foods and dishes that were served in my family while I was growing up and repeat traditions that have been passed down for generations, takes the holidays to a whole different level,” says Jinich, who features her favorite cookie recipes in her new book “Pati’s Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking,” which hits stores in March. “It connects me to those who have come before me and hopefully it will connect and have meaning to those who come after me.”

Her piggy cookies – traditionally known as cochinitos, marranitos or puerquitos – are a big hit with her boys, who “have lots of fun making the piggy shapes,” says Jinich. And the secret to making the and oh-so-sticky cookie dough? Lots and lots of piloncillo sugar, which is an unrefined dark brown sugar with an extra-rich flavor similar to molasses.

And while cochinitos are traditional in bakeries located in Mexico’s country side, Jinich’s other favorite – garabatos butter cookies sandwiched between a rich chocolate filling– are extremely famous in Mexico City.

“Everyone knows of garabatos,” explains Jinich, who says two bakeries in Mexico City – D’Elvis and Garabatos— are famous for their rendition of the sweet treat. “They are the perfect gift to bring to holiday dinners or get-togethers.”

From her home in Washington, D.C. to your kitchen, here are Jinich’s recipes for her favorite holiday cookies.

PIGGIES: CINNAMON AND PILONCILLO COOKIES
Cochinitos: Galletas de Piloncillo y Canela
Makes 30 medium-sized cookies (with a 4-inch cookie cutter)

Ingredients

12 oz piloncillo, chopped or grated, or substitute for 1 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup water
1 true or ceylon cinnamon stick, about 3″ long
2 sticks or 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp honey
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (you may need a bit more)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
Butter to grease a cookie/baking sheet
2 to 3 tbsp all-purpose flour (you may need a bit more or less) to roll out the dough
1 egg, lightly beaten to be used as a glaze
Confectioner’s sugar to sprinkle on top, optional

To prepare: In a saucepan, combine grated piloncillo or dark brown sugar with water and cinnamon. Place over medium heat. Once it simmers, lower the heat to keep it at a medium-low simmer for about 15 minutes, until it thickens to a light syrup consistency. Turn off the heat and remove the cinnamon stick. You should have now about 1 1/4 cups piloncillo liquid, it need not be exact! Add butter and honey into the hot liquid and stir until it dissolves.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a hole in the center and pour in the piloncillo mixture. Mix it all together with a spatula until it is well incorporated. Combine the eggs into the dough, which will be sticky and gooey. Seriously: it will be GOOEY and that is OK.

Place plastic wrap in the bottom of a mixing bowl, making wings on the sides. With a spatula, push the dough onto the plastic wrap, wrap the dough, and refrigerate anywhere from 2 hours to a couple of days.

When you are ready to make the cookies, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a couple of cookie or baking sheets with butter.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of flour on a countertop. Rub a bit of flour on the rolling-pin as well. Roll out the dough, which will now be firmer, until you have about 1/4 -inch thickness. Using piggie cookie cutters (or other shapes, but then you may need to change the name!) press down on the dough, moving it a bit on the counter top, to make it easier to lift the shaped dough.

Place the piggies on the baking sheet as you shape them along. Gently brush the cookie tops with the remaining egg. Roll the leftover dough into a ball, wrap it with the plastic wrap, and place it in the freezer for at least 10 minutes before using it again, or it will be too soft and sticky. Repeat to make the remaining cookies.

Bake the cookies anywhere from 7 to 9 minutes. Remove them from the oven and place on a cooking rack. You may sprinkle confectioners’ sugar on top. Keep them covered so they remain soft.

Garabato -  or scribbles cookies -  are a favorite of Pati Jinich's young boys.

Garabato – or scribbles cookies – are a favorite of Pati Jinich’s young boys. (Photo/Courtesy Penny De Los Santos)

GARABATO OR SCRIBBLES COOKIES
Galletas Garabato con Chocolate
Makes about 16 to 18 cookies

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

To prepare: In a mixer, at medium-high speed beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and keep on beating until fluffy. One by one, add the eggs until well combined. Lower the speed to low, and add the flour half a cup at a time, along with the salt, until thoroughly mixed. Remove from the mixer, turn into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate anywhere from 1/2 hour to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly dust all-purpose flour on your countertop and roll out the dough to about 1/4″ thickness. Cut circles about 3″ round. Place them in a buttered and floured cookie sheet. Bake anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes or until they appear lightly tanned. Let them cool on a cooling rack.

In a saucepan over low heat, combine the cream and the chopped chocolate. Stir constantly, until the chocolate is well dissolved. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

Once the cookies and chocolate filling have cooled, add a couple of tablespoons of chocolate on top of half the cookies. Top with another cookie without pressing down on it. Then with a spoon or fork, drizzle more chocolate on top of the cookies, making your own scribble designs.

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