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These tender Puerquitos are made with cinnamon, brown sugar, cocoa powder, and a hint of maple. A simple pan dulce recipe that is perfect with a steaming mug of coffee or hot chocolate!
There are few things that bring my childhood back like a piece of pan dulce in the morning. Growing up near the Mexican border, freshly baked Mexican pastries were a ritual that I looked forward to every weekend. My dad would get up early and head to the panadería (bakery) down the street so that he could be sure to get his favorites before they sold out. Then he’d come home with a big crinkly paper bag filled with goodies. I was always quick to grab a concha before anyone else could get to the bag, and if my mom had made hot chocolate then puerquitos were a must!
Now that I live in the rural Northeast it’s near impossible to find good pan dulce at a bakery. But that’s not a problem because I have my grandmother’s Mexican recipes! Today I’m sharing how she made puerquitos.
What Are Puerquitos?
Puerquitos are a kind of Mexican pan dulce (sweet bread) that is cut into the shape of pigs. They are also called marranitos and cochinitos. All of the names just mean “little pigs” in Spanish. In America, you will sometimes hear puerquitos referred to as cookies.
This homemade version makes tender puerquitos flavored with cocoa, cinnamon, maple, and vanilla. Vanilla glaze is added to them while they’re still hot from the oven, giving them an added layer of sweetness.
Is this an Authentic Mexican Recipe?
Nana’s recipe is authentic in the sense that she was born and raised in Mexico, but it’s not “authentic” in the sense that she used American ingredients to get the texture and flavor she was after.
So for example, instead of piloncillo (a kind of Mexican cane sugar), she used dark brown sugar because that is what she could find. And then she added maple syrup for an extra bit of flavor and sweetness, similar to this mazapan (Mexican peanut candy) recipe.
Bottom line? While this recipe may not use 100% authentic Mexican ingredients, it does use ingredients that will be easy for you to find and makes irresistibly tender puerquitos.
Tips for Success
- What kind of sugar to use? If you are able to find piloncillo you can swap that for the brown sugar in this recipe. Otherwise, use dark brown sugar. If you can’t find dark brown sugar you can also use light brown sugar. You can’t use regular white sugar though.
- Where can I find the pig cookie cutters? I bought mine on Amazon!
- Can I use different shapes? Absolutely. I even shaped some of these into hearts as you can see in the first photo above. You can use whatever cut out cookie cutter shape you want.
- Don’t overbake! It is very easy to overbake puerquitos and end up with hard, instead of tender pan dulces. They are done baking when they are light golden brown and have risen a bit. Mine usually bake in exactly 10 minutes.
- Glaze while hot, then give it time to cool. It is important that you glaze the puerquitos immediately after they come out of the oven. Otherwise the glaze won’t spread over them in a thin layer. After they are glazed give them at least 30 minutes to cool and set.
How to Store Puerquitos
After your puerquitos have cooled completely place them in an airtight container. You can store them on the counter for up to 2 days and in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Puerquitos (Marranitos Pan Dulce)
For the Pan Dulce
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup plus 2-3 tablespoons milk
For the Glaze
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3-4 teaspoons milk
- Combine the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and brown sugar. Pulse everything together a few times until combined.
- Add the butter. Cut cold butter into chunks and then add to the food processor. Pulse a few times until the butter has been worked in and the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
- Add wet ingredients. With the food processor running, add the maple syrup, vanilla, and 1/3 cup of milk. Stop the food processor and pulse it a few times.
- Adjust the amount of milk. If the pan dulce mixture still looks dry, add more milk 1 tablespoon at a time until it forms a dough that clumps into a ball. (See photo in the blog post for an example.) Pulse the mixture after adding each tablespoon of milk.
- Chill. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in saran wrap, gently pressing it into a disc shape. Chill for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
- Shape the puerquitos. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut out the shapes with your cookie cutter. Gather scraps of dough and shape them into a ball, then roll that dough out and repeat the process. Place the shaped dough on your cookie sheet, leaving about 2 inches of space between each pan dulce. (Note that you will need to bake your pan dulce in 2-3 batches.)
- Bake. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake the puerquitos for 10-12 minutes, until they are lightly golden brown. Don't overbake them or they will be hard.
- Make the glaze. While the pan dulce is baking, make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk in a medium bowl. Stir briskly with a spoon until you have a smooth, thick, yet pourable glaze.
- Glaze the puerquitos and cool. When the pan dulce comes out of the oven, glaze each pan dulce using a pastry brush. Set aside to cool and set for at least 30 minutes.