Moist and rich-tasting beneath a glossy, ever-so-slightly flaky top. Not quite cookie, not quite cake.
Marranitos -- or cochinos, or puerquitos, as are they are called in some Mexican-American communities -- are often called "Gingerbread Pigs," although they don't actually have ginger in them - and no cinnamon either. In fact, traditional marranitos get their delicious spicy-brown goodness from molasses.
Baking soda is the leavening agent, and it's the variation in the amount used that makes some bakeries' pigs fatter than others.
In Mexico, bakers take piloncillos -- unrefined brown sugar pressed into small cone shapes -- and boil the sugar with just enough water to make their own molasses syrup, which is then added to the dough for the little pigs. Then the dough is rolled out and cut with pig-shaped cookie cutters about the size of a medium-size grown-up's hand. (4.5")
*This recipe is from Fort Worth baker Marco Rangel, and is used for the molasses pigs he sells at his bakery, the Panaderia San Marcos. It uses the non-traditional addition of cinnamon. You may wish to try also adding a bit of dry ground ginger. And you may use a milk wash instead of an egg wash.