Thursday, December 23, 2010
I have no formal training in the culinary field, (or photography for that matter) and I don't speak Spanish fluently. So from time to time I come across something perplexing. It gets under my skin until I figure it out for myself and make sense of it. Take these cookies, for example.
I've always known these as Ojarascas, (although I also call them sand cookies) and you can find them at Hispanic markets and any panaderia by that name. My mom and I love them, and we'd often pick up a bag along with our pan dulce.
Recently there's been some talk of Mexican Wedding Cookies, which I have had once in my lifetime, and Polvorones which are common in panaderias. Now all three of these are pretty similar, they all have a shortbread kind of consistency and a very basic list of ingredients. My dilemma was trying to figure out what the subtle differences were, how is that wedding cookie like (or not like) my ojarasca? So I did some research, compared recipes, and translated some Spanish. Here's what I've come to conclude, please add your insights in the comments!
Mexican Wedding Cookies - made with butter and powdered sugar, ground nuts are often added to the dough, cookies are dusted with powdered sugar. Melt-away texture.
Polvorones - can be any variation of shortbread cookie. The name comes from the word Polvo, which translates to dust (describing the texture of these treats). I have always known Polvorones to come in different colors, yellow, pink, white, brown and resemble a large sugar cookie. They are also sometimes flavored- orange, chocolate, vanilla, almond.
Ojarascas - made with manteca (pork lard) and granulated sugar, cookies are dusted with cinnamon sugar. Crumbly texture.
Out of the three the Ojarascas are my favorite. I assume the manteca is what sets them apart- Ojarascas are not overly sweet and the cinnamon sugar gives them a delicious flavor. Ojarascas are a great treat anytime but I especially like to make them at Christmas- perfect with coffee or Mexican hot chocolate and they make a wonderful addition to any cookie tray.
6 c flour
1 c sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/8 c vegetable shortening
1 1/8 c manteca (lard)
1/2 c water
1/2 c sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon
Combine the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Whip the shortening and lard until fluffy. Slowly add the dry mixture. Once half has been added add the remaining in all at once with the water. Knead until the dough begins to come together. Roll out to 1/2" thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut with a small round cutter, place on parchment and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. The cookies will still look pale. Remove them from the pan immediately and roll in cinnamon sugar to coat the entire surface.
Makes 4 dozen, feel free to halve the recipe.