Sunday, April 11, 2010

An Easter cookie

Given that Easter was last Sunday, I thought I would share the recipe for a cookie traditionally made only during Semana Santa here in Puebla. These mueganos are a shortbread-type cookie made with lard (vegetarians beware!), brushed with anise-flavored syrup made from piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) and topped with crumbs from the same dough.

Several of us have been itching to learn the recipe from Luicita, and she obliged us with a batch this past week. The woman is incredible; she has a seemingly infinite number of recipes filed away in her memory. She might forget to buy onions while we're at the market, but she can perfectly dictate a recipe for mole, any number of cookies and dulces, salsas, you name it. As the oldest child of ten who practically raised her youngest siblings, she's had a lot of practice. Not to mention that she is a seamstress by trade, knits and embroiders, teaches a catechism class to eighty kids, has held nine out of the ten mayordomo positions in her church, and tells slightly off color-jokes. (Case in point, referring to her status as a señorita, or virgin, at sixty-five: "He pasado muchas Navidades, pero nunca una Noche buena." Noche buena being Christmas Eve. I'll leave you to discern the double entendre.) A woman of many talents, the result this week was a crumbly, delicious cookie to celebrate the Easter holiday.

María Luisa Bueno Vargas

This dough can also be formed into round cookies called “rodeos” topped with powdered sugar, either white or pastel-colored.

1 K all-purpose flour
500 g lard, setting aside 50 g to grease two medium-sized cookie sheets
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 cups water
1 piloncillo cone (Mexican cone-shaped brown sugar)
1 tablespoon anise

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In half a cup of water, dissolve the baking powder. On a clean surface, make a fountain with the flour. Add the lard, sugar, and water with the baking soda to the center of the fountain and mix well until fully incorporated. Gradually begin to pull in flour from the sides, incorporating as you go. 

Mix until the flour is fully incorporated. The dough should be crumbly and not too greasy, barely held together by the lard. 

Make 8 balls from the dough. Grease the two cookie sheets with the remaining lard. Extend each ball into a long roll, the width of the cookie sheet.

Place one roll at a time on the cookie sheet, flattening it with your hand to a rectangular shape the width of the cookie sheet and cutting into 5 equal squares, trimming the two ends. Don’t worry about leaving space between the dough and the edge of the sheet. Repeat with each of the rolls, placing 4 rolls on each cookie sheet. Bake the mueganos for 18-24 minutes, or until slightly golden. 

While the mueganos bake, dissolve the piloncillo in the remaining cup of water over medium-high heat. Once the piloncillo dissolves, add the anise and let the syrup boil for about three minutes. Strain the syrup.

Remove the mueganos from the oven and cool slightly. Using a pastry brush, brush the cookies twice with the syrup, leaving 4-5 cookies without syrup. Crumble these cookies through a strainer to adorn the mueganos.

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