Growing up in San Antonio, I ate my share of Mexican cookies. My favorites were the powdered sugar coated polverones — Mexican sugar cookies that dissolved in your mouth like dust (polvo). Today’s Pan de Polvo are a little different than the ones I remember. They aren’t quite as crumbly, yet have a light and almost powdery center.
Pan de Polvo Flavor & Texture
The cookies have a butter & spice flavor and in this case (unlike in the peanut blossoms) the artificial butter flavor from the shortening tastes good mixed with the real butter, anise, cinnamon and almond extract. I’m sure it contributes to the texture as well, or the recipe would have just called for 2/3 cup butter. So overall these have a great flavor, great texture, and are pretty. Plus I’d say the shortening is key.
Also of note, this recipe is supposed to be Eva Longoria’s as published in InStyle Magazine. Eva lived in San Antonio and may have used the same brand of spices I did including Fiesta anise seeds. If you can’t find Fiesta brand, McCormick makes them too. Now if only I could find some anise extract around here.
Update: They moved my original link and it no longer works, so now I’m linking to Mary who re-typed the recipe on her blog.
The ‘piggies’ you speak of are made with molasses, similar to good quality gingerbread. It is what gives them that very specific flavor and texture that is difficult to put your finger on. I don’t believe they actually have any ginger in them.
One other note, apparently HEB uses a combination of palm oil shortening and lard. They add artificial butter flavoring seperately. I also see whey on the list of ingredients in leu of water. I’m curious how these differences would change texture, if there are any master bakers out there with some insight. It is really important to me to get the texture of the cookies just right. I would actually prefer them to be nice and “dusty” all the way through. HEB pan de polvo is a bit tough/harder in the middle than I would like.
I was just eating some of the HEB pan de polvo cookies with the anise flavor and decided to google them. My dad has been trying to get this recipe right for the longest time. Ironically, the povalitos mix that heb puts out does not have the correct texture at all. They are more like shortbread, and taste like a mix between the powdered sugar and nut variety with the cinnamon and anise variety. My question is specifically for those who have had the HEB bakery pan de polvos. There are little dark brown/black pieces inside the cookies that taste like anise, but definitely aren’t anise seeds. I am wondering if they are coursely ground pieces of the star anise pod itself, or if they are something else entirely. I have noticed that they don’t have a very strong flavor and that they make my tongue go slightly numb. HEB doesn’t list them in the ingredients list at all. After scouring different spiced pan de polvo recipes online, I have come to a couple possible conclusions. I think they make be a result of HEB saving time/money for mass baking by brewing the “cinnamon anise tea” with coursely ground star anise pods and cinnamon sticks, and then adding the entire tea mixture to the dough so they don’t have to go through straining the liquid. I think this would account for the subtler anise flavor than expected in the anise pod pieces, and the slightly sweet and sublte cinnamon hint that only comes from actual fresh cinnamon stick. My second hypothesis is a bit tricker and will likely require the knowledge of a serious foodie. I recall Rick Bailes (Mexico, one plate at a time) mentioning a mexican spice that tastes like anise and numbs the tongue a bit. It wasn’t something I had ever heard of before, so I am assuming it was something traditional and local. As most HEB shoppers likely know, HEB does have an extensive network in northern Mexico, so it is not impossible for this spice to be exotic. I worked for the company for a couple years, and I know that, often, authentic recipes like this are the result of employees being given a bit of creative freedom, particularly with products made in house, like baked goods. If something catches on, HEB will hone the recipe for mass production and market the product at other stores, based on social/racial demographics. Thus, this is likely why I used to only be able to find these pan de polvo cookies at an HEB in San Angelo, a more predominantly hispanic area, then eventually they were available in east Austin (riverside HEB), and finally, in the past year or two, at the HEB in Beecave. For those of you not familiar, Beecave is a much higher income area with a fairly different demographic. Anyway, back to the topic at hand, I would really appreciate any insight readers may have about this specific anise/cinnamon flavored ingredient, and also, what the name of this slightly tongue numbering anise flavored spice is. Lastly, I should mention Rick Bailes does not have a pan de polvo recipe in either of his cook books that I own, or any, as far as I know.
Hi how are you.. I am reading this website and I saw this on Pan de polovo made with Anise. I would love to have the receipie if you don’t mind. My mother use to make these pan de polvo cookies and since she passed nobody seems to know how to make them or where the receipie is at or how to get it. Well, I would greatly appreciate it if you would please email it to me.
My grandmother handed down a family receipe from Aguas Calientes, Mexico. Over the years translation has lost much, but after interviewing my mother and watching her bake, I realize the tea is the special part of the cookie, how you prepare it. This has never been translated into english and was lost in the process. Thankfully my mother still used this and remarked – oh well, no one ever asked me about the tea.
There is no replacement for watching the procedure done – from there you can add your own special tweeks -I make mine sugar free – yep – you heard me right.
Good luck finding the perfect one, Joe. Maybe it’s this one. I know what you mean about trying to find things as good as you remember them from childhood.
My memories of Pan de Polvo always had that taste of anise in a rich crumbly cookie dusted in a sugar and cinnamon blend. I have tried to recreate that taste and have come close but cannot get the crumbly part right. Too much shortening? Not the right ratios? Going to keep trying though.
I have an unopened bottle of anise extract I’d be happy to send to you. Let me know.
I love polvorones Anna! Arround Christmas time in Spain all supermarkets carry a huge variety of different kinds of polvores sold by weight. When I was living there I used to buy (and eat) so many! Every year I tell myself I should make them at home for Christmas, but of course I never manage to do…
saw this and immediately thought of you!
They look like snickerdoodle cookies too! But the anise extract must give them a different twist. Yum!
I have anise extract, Anna, wish you lived closer, I would give you some. I use anise seeds for spaghetti sauce and pizzelles.
I am delighted to see this recipe! Now if I can just find the recipe for “pumpkin pigs”…a spicy-gingerbread-type cookie with a smear of pumpkin filling in it…the local Mexican bakeries in San Diego always cut them in pig shapes…I always gave them away as “good luck” favors on New Year’s Day. 🙂
I usually make the traditional Mexican Wedding Cookies and I just love them. I’m not a fan of using shortening in a cookie so I think I’ll stick with my regular recipe.
I used to live in San Antonio too. I loved the cultural exposure I got while I was growing up. I miss the bakeries along the Riverwalk! We used to frequent a restaraunt called
Mi Tierra on the Riverwalk. I wonder if it’s still there??
I’ve made a version of Mexican Wedding Cookies for many years, but they are much richer. The recipe calls for a ratio of one stick of butter to one cup of flour and lots of pecans. Then rolled in powdered sugar. They are wonderful and always get raves when I bring them to events. I’ve never had this type and they look intriguing, especially with all the spices.
Look so delicious! I’ll cook these!
I love those melt in your mouth cookies too! I don’t recall seeing a recipe of this type with anise seed in them. They sound different but really interesting.
We know these aren’t traditional with butter-flavor shortening. I can’t get past that one ingredient. Yuck.
Jalanda, somehow Whataburger just didn’t fit in that list. 😉
Anna, so are these kind of like Mexican Wedding cookies, but with spices instead of nuts and powdered sugar? I love those melt in your mouth, “dusty” cookies.
I miss polvorones.
I even like the ones that I used to buy at the local HEB bakery.
Good thing we are going home to San Antonio for Christmas. I can get my fill of tamales, polvorones, tortilla soup and Whataburger!
Florida is nice, but it is missing the tastes of home.