Do you have a family tradition that was passed down to you??? Making cookies during the holidays is probably one of those traditions that we are all familiar with. There were only two desserts that my Mom baked during the holidays, empanadas and hojarascas. Hojarascas is the name I knew them by in Monterrey, Mexico. This very traditional Mexican cookie is lightly sweetened and typically flavored with anise. They come with or without nuts. The orange zest is my twist on the recipe. They are rolled in sugar and fresh grated canela (Mexican cinnamon). They literally melt in your mouth!
After I got married and moved away from home, my Mom would send me these cookies every Christmas. Now that that she is no longer with us, I took it upon myself to keep this tradition going and bake these very special cookies every holiday season. The cookies are very similar to Polvorones, Pan de Polvo and Biscochitos. This recipe includes eggs, which yields a more firm dough, which makes it easier to use cookie cutters. I would not reccomend the eggless recipe for cut-out cookies. The hardest part is not eating them before I share them with family an friends! Happy Holidays!
Hojarascas (Mexican Shortbread Cookies)
Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without these traditional hojarascas in our house! Called by other names, such as biscochitos, pan de polvo and polvorones, they are delicious!
- 1 to 1 1 /2 cups of vegetable shortening manteca (rendered pork lard) or butter
- ½ cup granulated sugar plus more for dusting
- 1½ teaspoons anise seeds or 1 teaspoon ground
- 2 large egg yolks
- Zest and juice from 1 large orange at least 1/4 cup of juice
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup finely ground pecans
- Nonstick spray or parchment paper
You Will Also Need
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp fresh ground Mexican canela(cinnamon) or already ground cinnamon
To Start: Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Combine 1 1/4 cups of shortening and ½ cup of sugar in bowl. Using an electric hand mixer, cream together until fluffy. Beat in the anise and then the egg yolks until thoroughly blended. Reduce mixer speed to low and with the mixer running, add the orange juice, zest, baking powder and finally the flour, mixing just long enough to work in the flour. If the dough feels too crumbly, mix in a little more shortening. Fold in the pecans. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes.
- Line cookie sheets with parchement paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough and use your favorite cutouts like hearts, stars or trees. You can also roll 1 inch balls and place them on the cookie sheets. Take the bottom of a glass and press cookies flat. Dip the bottom of glass in flour if it starts to stick.
Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned, about 12 to 14 minutes. While cookies are cooling, mix the 1/2 cup of sugar with 1 tsp of canela (cinnamon). Carefully dip each cookie into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Cool completely and store in airtight container. Yields up to 2 dozen small cookies.
My family's recipe for hojarascas is a little more simple than this one.Typically prepared without the orange zest and juice. The juice would be replaced with a tea prepared with Mexican cinnamon(canela) and anise seeds. Simply combine 2 inch stick of canela(cinnamon) and 1/2 teaspoon of anise seeds with 1 cup of water in a sauce pan. Bring up to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool at room temperature. Strain before adding required amount to recipe.
The nuts are optional, but were often added to give the cookie a more traditional feel. Mexican cinnamon sticks are softer than the sticks you typically find in most markets. The Mexican cinnamon can easily be ground with a micro plane or in a coffee grinder once broken into pieces.
The hojarascas are extremely fragile when warm. So please wait until they have cooled to dip them in the cinnamon/sugar mixture.
If you can find real Mexican canela(cinnamon), I would suggest using that.
And then for the holidays…. Cut out are festive!
Tips~ The gingerbread man was not the best for this recipe. The heads and legs brake off easily, lol! Stick with the stars, hearts or trees.