My grandmother would always have stacks of plastic food tubs full of traditional pan de polvo on top of the refrigerator in her back pantry. Therefore, I spent a lot of time back there, stalking these poor little cookies. They never had a chance.
The trick to pan de polvo is to make them in advance. When I first started making these in my home, I was always disappointed with their cardboard-ish texture, and lack of flavor. But after a few days in a plastic food tub, voila! Magic! If you allow them to rest in storage for 4 to 5 days, their texture become svelvety, the cinnamon flavor ripens, and these unassuming cookies morph into an absolute addiction.
Some people like to use cookie press guns when making pan de polvo. I have done that a few times, as it saves you the mess and hassle of rolling out the dough. Plus, the cookie guns press out cookies with less waste. Either way is fine. Using a cookie gun makes the cookies a bit thinner, and takes away that thick shortbread quality you get with cookies that are rolled out and cut with a cookie cutter.
Kids love making these cookies. They can choose the cookie cutters (small ones are best) and you can break away from the traditional shapes of stars, hearts and circles and try dinosaurs or flowers. Just make sure the cookie cutters are small, and not too detailed. This dough can be sticky, and is not meant for intricate shapes such as snowflakes, or large shapes such as gingerbread men. Keep these cookies small and simple.
And if you have the time, freshly grind the cinnamon for the cookie (the tea part of the recipe requires whole cinnamon always.) My grandmother used a spice grinder to freshly grind cinnamon for her pan de polvo, and what a world of difference it makes in the flavor.
For my batch pictured here, I shamefully used store bought ground cinnamon, and if you noticed, I cut my cookies too big. Ah well, modern times. I am crazy busy at the moment. But I still think my grandmother would be pleased I am following her recipes, even when I don’t have that much time.
1 stick cinnamon
2 cups water
5-6 cups flour (700-750 gr)
1 ¼ cups sugar (250gr)
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon (7 gr)
1 ½ tsp. baking powder (6gr)
2 ¾ cup lard or shortening (560gr)
1 ½ cups sugar (300 gr)
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon (7 gr)
Make the tea by combining the stick of cinnamon with the water, and boiling for approximately 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C) Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and shortening or lard in a large mixing bowl. Add 3/4 cup of the cinnamon tea. Mix well using an electric mixer, until the dough is smooth. On a floured surface, roll out the dough and cut into 2” (5cm) wide shapes. Roll to a ¼” thickness (6mm.) Knead in extra flour if dough seems too soft.
Bake for 8 minutes, until golden. While the cookies are baking, combine the sugar and ground cinnamon for the topping in a shallow bowl. Remove the cookies from the oven, allow to cool briefly, and roll the warm cookies through the sugar topping mixture. Set aside to cool completely. Roll again in the powdered sugar, if desired.
It’s difficult to make the exact amount of cinnamon tea needed for this recipe, and its a real hassle when you make too little. I always make a little extra so I have what I need. The rest can be added to another recipe, or perhaps you can add some to a hot tea or coffee beverage. On its own, cinnamon tea is nice with a bit of sugar and lemon.
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