Day of the Dead + Marranitos (Mexican Pig-Shaped Cookies)

Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a very special celebration. If you follow us on Facebook you might have seen some sneak peak photos. And if you’ve been following us for a couple of years you might have read, In Honor of our Grandmother, Jesusita. If you haven’t read it we invite you to read it to understand what the celebration is all about and to understand the differences between Halloween and Día de Los Muertos.

The celebration occurs on November 2 and it is a day we honor the memory of the dead. Although the celebration occurs November 2, I decided to celebrate a little early and get my daughter really involved. Over the years she has really enjoyed helping me set up an altar for our grandma and learning all about this special day. I love that she now loves this special day just as much as I do. So when I had the idea to dress her in sugar skull makeup and have her be a part of the festivities she was very excited.

Now that our Muy Bueno cookbook is published I have not been able to stop thinking about our grandma. I felt her presence while we tirelessly wrote our cookbook. I know she was watching over us and it is with great admiration that I honor her on this special day. I am still in disbelief that we wrote a cookbook and it’s all because of her, the matriarch of our familia who inspired us.

I was trying to think of all the things that remind me of grandma to place on her altar and it made me very emotional as I shopped at a little Latin grocery store. While shopping I found all the items and food I had envisioned for the altar. I saw pan dulce (sweet bread), Mexican candies, veladoras (religious candles), and felt at peace surrounded by items that reminded me of my childhood and of grandma. I knew I needed to buy all these goodies to let grandma know I was thinking of her and to welcome her spirit. As my children and I shopped in that little store I told them all about Soza’s Grocery, the little tiendita (store) we owned when I was younger and all the sweet memories I have of grandma. My daughter always loves when I tell her stories of my childhood and was all ears.

I also wanted to make a very special dish for our grandma. Last year I made Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead), which is a very traditional dish seen at Día de Los Muertos celebrations. This year I wanted to make Marranitos (little pigs), or cochinos, or puerquitos, as they are called in some Mexican-American communities. They were our grandma’s favorite sweet bread and remind me so much of her. We never made them at home growing up. We had a panaderia (Mexican bakery) nearby, so we never had the need to make them. Marranitos are often called “Gingerbread Pigs,” although they only have a pinch of ginger in them. In fact, traditional marranitos get their delicious spicy-brown flavor from molasses. They are rich and oh so gratifying, their cake-like texture is reminiscent of shortbread, very lightly spiced, and deeply flavored from the traditional dark unrefined sugar known as piloncillo. Marranitos are perfect to accompany a hot cup of coffee or Champurrado (Mexican Hot Chocolate).

I bookmarked this Puerquitos recipe on Girlichef and knew I had to make them. With our scheduled photo shoot fast approaching I knew I wouldn’t have time to make them so I asked my dear foodie friend, Karen to help me out. She is such a doll! She came right over and picked up the piggy mold my mom bought me in Juarez, Mexico and made the marranitos with a few adaptations for me in her home for the photo shoot.

The photo shoot was very spiritual. My daughter was trembling on that chilly Colorado day but never complained. I was very proud of her. I felt at peace after it was all over, as if a huge weight had been lifted. If you’ve never celebrated Día de Los Muertos I highly recommend it. It’s an indescribable and peaceful feeling honoring the memory of those we have lost.

Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them. ~George Eliot

Photography: Jeanine Thurston / Model: Maya / MUA: Jill Scott / Sugar skull cake: Jene Alie, Anything But Vanilla / Marranitos: Karen Harris, Savoury Table / Styling: Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack

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Marranitos / Cochinos / Puerquitos (Mexican Pig-Shaped Cookies)

Yield: 18 large cookies

Marranitos are often called "Gingerbread Pigs." Traditional marranitos get their delicious spicy-brown flavor from molasses. They are rich and oh so gratifying, their cake-like texture is reminiscent of shortbread, very lightly spiced, and deeply flavored from the traditional dark unrefined sugar known as piloncillo. Marranitos are perfect to accompany a hot cup of coffee or Champurrado (Mexican Hot Chocolate).

Ingredients:

1¼ cups packed grated piloncillo (or dark brown sugar)
¼ cups butter or shortening, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
⅓ cup milk
1½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¾ cup molasses
¼ cup honey
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour (depending on altitude)

To finish:
1 large egg, beaten

Directions:

Beat piloncillo and butter together in a large bowl until combined (they won't really cream together, just beat as best as you can). Add the egg, milk, and vanilla bean paste and beat again until smooth. Add baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, molasses, and honey. Beat until well combined.

Beat in 3 cups of the flour. Gradually add remaining flour, switching from mixer to a wooden spoon once the dough starts to become too stiff (so that you don't burn out your mixer). The dough will seem a bit crumbly, but once you've stirred in as much of the flour as you can, use your hands to quickly knead in the rest of the flour. You're looking for dough that you're able to roll out.

Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and turn the dough out onto it. Pull dough together into a large disc and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350° F and line a couple of sheet trays with parchment paper or a silpat.

Cut dough in half and wrap one halfback in plastic wrap, set aside (or refrigerate for now). Roll other half of dough out on a lightly floured surface to about ¼" thickness. Use a large pig-shaped cookie cutter (dip in a bit of flour) to cut out pig-shaped cookies. Place on prepared baking sheet. Re-roll dough and repeat. Repeat with other half of dough when ready.

Brush a thin coat of the beaten egg over the dough before you put it into the oven.

Slide into preheated oven and bake in the middle rack for 10 to 15 minutes or until cookies just start to turn golden around the edges and are just cooked through.

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Keep them covered so they remain soft.

Adapted from Girlichef

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34 Responses to “Day of the Dead + Marranitos (Mexican Pig-Shaped Cookies)”

  1. 1
    Ansh — October 11, 2012 @ 10:21 pm

    Such a great way to honor the memories of those we have lost. Gorgeous photography and styling and cookies and cake — OK in short.. gorgeous everything!

    • Muy Bueno replied: — October 11th, 2012 @ 10:46 pm

      Thank you sweet friend! And thanks again Ansh for the gorgeous cake platter! See you Sunday!

  2. 2
    Linda — October 11, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

    Can you recommend a site to buy the correct size piggy cuter. Thank you

  3. 3
    Rosa — October 12, 2012 @ 12:51 am

    Great pictures, model and face paint! What a great celebration. Those cookies are so cute.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  4. 4
    Leslie @ La Cocina de Leslie — October 12, 2012 @ 5:56 am

    What a beautiful post!!! The photography, el altar, your litte girl, and the memories of your beloved abuelita. And those marranitos look SO delicious!

  5. 5
    Karen Harris — October 12, 2012 @ 6:01 am

    Just as beautiful as I knew it would be. Thanks for asking me to be a part of this memorable day. Maya is a star!

  6. 6
    Heather @girlichef — October 12, 2012 @ 7:14 am

    amazing, Amazing, AMAZINGLY GORGEOUS photos! Your daughter looks stunning as does the landscape and the tablescape. How in the world did you get that amazing bird in that shot? Fantastic! And of course, thank you for the Marranitos love :). Beautiful post.

  7. 7
    Monica — October 12, 2012 @ 7:22 am

    Beautiful, Yvette!! Incredible photos, food, etc.

  8. 8
    Delphyne — October 12, 2012 @ 7:38 am

    What a beautiful post! Your daughter is lovely and her outfit and makeup are spectacular.

    I posted this on FB and am going to send the link to a friend who is doing a Calaca a Day for the month of October. There are some wonderful and original pieces of art, along with some taken from the web. You might enjoy it….

    I’m going to try these cookies, too!

  9. 9

    Oh this was just grand! The incredible make-up, the photos, the story, and, of course, the recipe. I deeply appreciate the Mexican attitude toward death and look forward to the days of celebration each year.

  10. 10
    Mar@Emy Cooks — October 12, 2012 @ 7:49 am

    Oh my goodness, this is such a beautiful POST! It made me sentimental remembering my grandmother who has also passed away and on those days, we had fun remembering the dead! And the recipes, thanks, awesome!!! Que bonitos recuerdos, y se han ido pero siempre en nuestro corazon!!!!

    Suerte!!

    Can I post on my blog…to help your promotion on your book? send me email…

    • Muy Bueno replied: — October 12th, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

      Hi there! First of all thank you so much!!! You are more than welcome to share via facebook and twitter. You may also link to our blog post on your blog, but as you may know please do not use our photos without permission ;)

  11. 11
    Esmeralada — October 12, 2012 @ 9:01 am

    What a gorgeous post! The photos are breathtaking and the story pulled at my heartstrings.
    I can’t wait to try the recipe.

  12. 12
    Celia — October 12, 2012 @ 10:46 am

    Stunning. Beautiful. Mexicana. I love sharing my Mexican hertiage with my friends and co-workers, especially Dia de Los Muertos. I work at a rather large coffee company (hint: we’re in Seattle) that fortunately celebrates culture and diversity. For the past 4 years, I have been honored to lead a massive coffee tasting and Day of the Dead altar- right in our roasting commons! I prepare my Dad’s version of Cafe de Olla, my Nana’s tamalitos de maiz y canela, and invite any one who wants to honor their deceased loves one to bring a picture of their beloveds, a favorite food and flowers and candles to honor them. I’m always amazed at how many of my colleagues participate! We drink the cafe, share stories of our families and enjoy the communal altar that graces the floor. This year, you have inspired me to add champurrado and marranitos!

  13. 13
    Michelle — October 12, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

    Thank you so much for the beautiful post, your photos are so moving and your daughter is beautiful. I can’t wait to try the marranitos receipe! My daughter is 1/2 Mexican (on my husband’s side) and we are away from his family so it’s up to us alone to teach her heritage in a non-Mexican community. She loves celebrating her culture as we teach it. In fact we’re going to make sugar skulls at the Detroit Institute of Arts where they have a workshop this month. This will be so much fun to incorporate. Thank you!

  14. 14
    Ana Flores — October 12, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

    I can’t get over how beautiful these pictures are.

  15. 15
    Mandy — October 12, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

    Breathtaking photographs and story. Your story reminded me of my loved ones, especially my grandparents, Epifano and Candelaria Archuleta. Much love,

  16. 16
    Sarra Taccone — October 25, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

    I love dia de los muertos! i created an app that does calaveras makeup to your photos. Hope u like it!

  17. 17
    Cynthia W — December 24, 2012 @ 5:35 am

    I made these cookies for our road trip to AZ for Christmas. These are the best Marranitos I’ve ever eaten (these are my favorite cookies to eat with my coffee). I’ve tried many other recipes and this one is the best one I’ve tried. The cookie is perfection!

    • Muy Bueno replied: — December 26th, 2012 @ 10:24 am

      So excited you loved them Cynthia. Thanks for letting us know! Hope your Christmas vacation is memorable as your Marranitos :)

  18. 18
    Jenny — February 1, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I remember every time we would visit my grandad in Texas he would always have a little paper bag filled with marronitos waiting for us.

    • Muy Bueno replied: — February 4th, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

      You are very welcome Jenny! What a sweet memory of your grandad. Love it!

  19. 19
    Amy — June 5, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

    These were such a hit! My boyfriend and his family said they were the best they’ve ever had. I just ordered your cookbook because these and your tres leches recipes were both beyond successful! I can’t wait to try more recipes from y’all!

    • Muy Bueno replied: — June 5th, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

      That means a lot Amy! Thank you soooo much! Once you receive our cookbook we’d love a customer review on Amazon. Truly appreciate your support.

      Gracias!

  20. 20
    Lindsay. — August 30, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

    Hello, these cookies turned out so great I was wondering if you had a recipe for the three colored polvorones? I’ve found many online but none of them have that right authentic taste to them!

    • Muy Bueno replied: — August 31st, 2013 @ 11:55 am

      Hi Lindsay,

      So exciting the piggies came out yummy for you. Are you talking about pan dulce/conchas?

  21. 21
    Jenny — September 16, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

    I finally got around to making these after bookmarking this page a few months ago! They turned out absolutely perfect and taste exactly like the marranitos I remember eating as a kid. I am sharing them with the Spanish I and II classes at my school. If everything works out I’ll be teaching the older students how to use a tortilla press to make corn tortillas. Should be a fun day.

    • Muy Bueno replied: — September 17th, 2013 @ 2:10 pm

      Hola Jenny!

      Wow! That is so wonderful to hear! The students at your school are pretty darn lucky!

      Feel free to share photos on our facebook page. We love seeing our recipes made by our amigos. And please keep in touch!

  22. 22
    Jenny — September 18, 2013 @ 11:50 am

    The students ate the cookies so fast, I’m not even sure I got pictures of the cookies! I’ve got plenty of their lovely, tasty, misshapen tortillas though. :) But I’ll definitely post some on the Facebook page if I ended up getting some good shots. The Spanish teacher has already said she wants me to do some more cooking/cultural demonstrations with her students and I really look forward to that. We’re located in northeast Arkansas and the most exposure that many of these students have had to Hispanic culture is limited to eating at a local Mexican restaurant. So it’s fun to have the chance to broaden their horizons just a bit!

  23. 23
    jess rodriguez — September 27, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

    can i use vanilla extract instead because i cant get a hold of vanilla bean

    • Muy Bueno replied: — September 30th, 2013 @ 11:16 am

      Hi Jess,

      I would highly suggest to use vanilla paste. You can find it at specialty cooking supply stores or order on amazon.com. It’s a lot thicker than vanilla extract.

  24. 24
    Alicia — October 6, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

    I am so happy to have happened upon your site! My husband is Mexican and I have spent years there back and forth to the US. My parents came to visit and we bought these cochinos and my mom fell in love with them! I recently brought some back from Mexico for her and she put them in the freezer, only taking one out to treat herself occasionally! I am so excited to have a recipe! Thank you so much for sharing!
    Your daughter looked gorgeous with her makeup done! I will be attempting this myself this year! I think it’s awesome that you shared the traditions with your daughter! I love being in Mexico because they still hold on to things the states have lost! I think sharing history and tradition with our children is so important! I look forward to checking out your cookbook too! Thanks again!

    • Muy Bueno replied: — October 12th, 2013 @ 10:20 am

      Thank you so much for the very sweet comment. Stay tuned for another post coming soon with my daughter and Dia de Los Muertos. I have a feeling you will like it.

      Keep in touch!

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