This is my take on a very traditional pan dulce mexicano. Cocoles de Piloncillo y Anis is probably the oldest type of bread that still exists and is still being made in all parts of Mexico. It is traditionally made with wheat flour, milk, eggs, and some local ingredients. I took liberties with the recipe being that I didn’t have piloncillo, using some brown sugar and blackstrap molasses instead to approximate the flavor of the piloncillo or panela as it’s sometimes called.
I also took slight liberties with the use of a combination of white whole wheat flour with bread flour, just because I really like the smell of the whole wheat flour with the cinnamon. I used to work near a bakery that made whole wheat cinnamon rolls, and I got to know that smell very well! In looking at online recipes for this, it was unclear to me that the mention of “wheat flour” was anything different than modern-day whole wheat flour. I feel that it was unlikely that they had all-purpose flour back in the day!
The characteristic that instantly attracted me to this ancient bread is the rhomboid or parallelogram shape one is supposed to shape each ball of dough in. Geometry!! Although how the shape of each roll turns out after baking seems more like a cross between a pair of lips and a football! To me anyway.
I did enjoy shaping them, and it was relatively easy:
cocoles de anis (inspiration from here)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
1 packet yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon anise seeds, ground
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
In a small bowl, combine the lukewarm water with the yeast and the 1 teaspoon of sugar. Stir lightly to combine and then leave to get frothy and bubbly, bout 10 minutes. Start over if it doesn’t bloom.
In a larger bowl, add the flour, ground anise seeds, ground cinnamon, the brown sugar, and the salt together and stir with a whisk to combine several times.
Make a well in the center and add the liquid ingredients–the eggs, the blackstrap molasses, and the yeasted water, plus the softened room temperature butter.
Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts forming a very shaggy dough. Empty the contents of the bowl to a well-floured clean work surface and knead the dough for about 10-15 minutes, using any additional flour if needed, but never adding more than a tablespoon at a time, and no more than 1/4 cup of extra flour total.
After kneading it has yielded a smooth, somewhat elastic dough, form the dough into a ball and grease the bowl you used with a little olive oil, or other vegetable oil. Place the ball of dough in the bowl, turning it once to ensure the ball of dough is evenly coated with the oil. Cover the top with plastic wrap tightly and leave the bowl undisturbed in a warm place in the kitchen for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. You might be able to get by with one baking sheet.
Divide the dough into however many rolls you desire. I wanted 12, and it worked out that I could get 12 pieces each weighing about 80 grams, which felt like a fairly standard size for a sweet roll, but maybe you like larger ones?
Shape each piece of dough into a rough ball shape first. Pinch the bottoms if there is a crack or opening.
Next, start to roll it into almost like a sausage shape, only keep the middle part thicker, creating almost like a belly. (see pictures.)
Using a rolling pin, go over it once, which flattens the belly part and make it like a diamond shape, or parallelogram.
Form the sides so that they are not so curvy. The last picture isn’t a good enough representation of the shape I eventually had them in, but I didn’t take a pic, sorry. It does show me pinching the sides to make them distinct, which I did do, though.
I had six to a baking sheet, but like I said, you could probably fit them all in one baking sheet, it the baking sheet it large.
Cover each baking sheet loosely with a piece of plastic and let sit for about 45 minutes for a second rise.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. F.
Make an egg wash by combining one egg with a tablespoon of water. I added about a tablespoon of honey to it also, but that’s up to you!
After the second rise, brush each of the rolls with the egg wash and lightly but evenly sprinkle sesame seeds, if using.
Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven but let sit on a wire rack on the baking sheets for about 10 minutes, just because if you move it or expose it to a draft, the skin can get sort of wrinkled looking.
Enjoy plain or with some butter!