These hojarascas (cinnamon-sugar cookies that are also known as Mexican shortbread) have a short, crisp texture and crunchy sugar coating. Brown sugar syrup provides caramelly sweetness to the dough and King Arthur Organic Masa Harina brings corn flavor. Enjoy with a cup of tea or all on their own for a warm, well-spiced cookie.
To make the brown sugar syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar or piloncillo, cinnamon, and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat so that the mixture continues to simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes until the sugar is mostly dissolved.
Remove the lid and continue to simmer until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes. If a cinnamon stick was used, remove it from the syrup and discard. Pour the syrup into a liquid measuring cup to yield 1/2 cup (102g). If you have less than 1/2 cup, add water to make up the difference. If you have more than 1/2 cup, discard the excess or reserve for another use. (It's a wonderful sweetener for hot drinks.) Set aside.
To make the dough: In a small bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, masa harina, and salt until combined. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together (“cream”) the butter and shortening at medium speed until fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Reduce the mixer speed to low, and gradually stream in the brown sugar syrup, mixing to combine, about 1 minute. (The syrup should be soft and pourable, but if it has hardened, loosen it by microwaving it for 10 to 15 seconds.) Add the egg and mix to combine, about 1 minute.
With the mixer running on low speed, add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the batter, beating gently to combine. Gently beat in half the milk. Mix in another third of the flour, then the remaining milk. Stir in the remaining flour, about 1 to 2 minutes total. Once all the ingredients are added, the dough should be soft, homogeneous, malleable, and shiny.
Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap or your favorite reusable wrap. Shape the dough into a rough 9" square and wrap to seal. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
To make the coating: In a small, shallow bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon together. Set aside.
To bake the cookies: Place racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment.
Flour your work surface generously and divide the dough into 4 pieces. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (return the other 3 pieces to the refrigerator), roll the dough to about 1/2" thick, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking. If the dough begins to crack, that’s OK; simply press or pinch it back together.
Using cookie cutters that are roughly 2" in diameter, cut the dough into cookies of your desired shape. Use an offset spatula to place the cookies gently in the coating mixture, flipping to coat both sides evenly. Once coated, place the cookies on the baking sheet, allowing about 1" of space between them.
Re-roll the dough scraps and cut, then coat, additional cookies. Repeat with the 3 reserved pieces of dough, working with 1 at a time.
Once you have 2 full baking sheets of cookies, place them in the oven on the upper and lower racks. Bake the hojarascas for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans on the racks from top to bottom halfway through baking. The hojarascas are done when they are light golden brown around the edges.
Remove the hojarascas from the oven and sprinkle with additional cinnamon-sugar mixture, if desired. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool fully.
Repeat the cutting and baking process with any remaining dough. The last batch of hojarascas should fit on 1 additional baking sheet; bake it in the top third of the oven for best results. Finish the hojarascas with additional cinnamon sugar and cool as described.
Storage information: Store leftover hojarascas in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. Freeze for longer storage.
Tips from our Bakers
Piloncillo is an unrefined whole cane sugar that’s often used in Central and Latin American cuisine. It is slightly more earthy and caramelly tasting than conventional brown sugar. Find it at specialty grocery stores or online at retailers. (Heads up: At King Arthur, we only recommend the ingredients that we, as bakers, truly love. When you buy through external links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.)
Masa harina (translation: dough flour) is flour made from corn that’s been soaked in a solution of slaked lime (nixtamalized) to loosen its hull and soften it, which improves its texture and helps release its nutrients. The soaked corn is ground into a paste (masa), dried, and then ground again, this time into a fine flour. Due to the corn’s special treatment, neither cornmeal nor corn flour are good substitutes for masa harina.