If you spend much time at the growing Mozza complex that is the happy corner of Melrose and Highland, you will have noticed Nancy Silverton's Pain d'Épices Pigs. They have graced pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez's dessert plates, and you can buy them at Mozza 2 Go, wrapped nicely in cellophane. They're gingerbread cookies cut out like pigs, with cloves for eyes and tails made from shards of cinnamon, maybe tied with twine or glazed with a bit of sugar. When we asked Narvaez for the recipe, she referred us to Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book, circa 2002. And lo, there it was, on page 181. Silverton says that the cookies were inspired by little Pain d'Épices cookies she saw in France in a wine shop, that she put the idea on her “must-do-one-day file” and started making them as soon as she found the right pig cookie cutter. “They're not sweet, not crisp,” said Silverton the other day. “Either a cake-y cookie or a dry cake.”
The pigs are built with pepper and a catalog of spices, with whiskey and honey and citrus zest, and you'll need a candy thermometer and a pig cookie cutter to make them. But in addition to being excellent cookies, they are dangerously cute. So much so that you may consider collecting a whole drawerful of pig cookie cutters. At last, a cookie for the bacon-and-pork-belly crowd.
Pain d'Épices Pigs
From: Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book, by Nancy Silverton and Teri Gelber.
Note: These instructions call for 3 pig-shaped cookie cutters, about 7 1/2 inches across for the large, 3 1/4 inches across for the small, and 2 inches across for the runt. You can use whatever size pig you have, or cut out the dough with a different shaped cookie cutter if you don't happen to have pigs.
Makes: 8 large pigs, 8 small pigs and 8 runts.
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons anise seeds
1 1/2 cups honey
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper
12 cardamom pods, seeds removed from the pods and crushed
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
12 whole cloves plus about 16 for decorating
1/8 teaspoon cloves
2 1/2 teaspoons allspice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ginger
2 wide strips orange zest
2 wide strips lemon zest
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons whiskey
4 extra large egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
4 cups plus 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
5 cinnamon sticks, for decorating
1. Adjust the oven racks to the lower and middle positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small skillet, over medium-high heat, toast the fennel seeds and anise seeds for 3-4 minutes, until they release their aromas. In a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, coarsely grind the seeds.
3. In a medium saucepan, combine the honey, cream, brown sugar, fennel seeds, anise seeds, pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, 12 whole cloves, ground cloves, allspice, cinnamon, ground ginger, orange and lemon zest. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes, until it reaches the soft ball stage, or 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Strain it through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and allow to cool.
4. Add the grated ginger, whiskey and egg yolks, stirring well to combine.
5. Sift together the salt, baking powder, baking soda, and flours. Add to the honey mixture, stirring well to combine.
6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gather 2/3 of the dough into a ball, and flatten it into a disc to use for the large pig cookies. Gather the remaining dough adn flatten it into a disc to use for the small pig cookies. Roll the dough out until it's approximately 1/2 inch thick, flouring the surface as needed. Brush off any excess flour. Cut out the larger pigs as closely together as possible, and place them on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, allowing space for the smaller pigs. Gather the scraps and continue to roll out the dough and cut out the cookies in the same manner. Do the same with the second disc of dough for the small pigs and place them net to the larger pigs. You should have 8 large pigs and 8 small pigs. Gather the scraps, reroll and cut out the runts (optional). Chill until firm.
7. For the big pigs' eyes, poke a whole clove into the dough where the eye would be. For the smaller pigs' eyes, break a small piece off a clove and poke it into the dough. For the tails, break 4 of the cinnamon sticks in half lengthwise–the pieces should be roughly 2 1/2 inches long–and place them on the larger pigs, with the curly side facing up. Break the remaining cinnamon stick into quarters, and break off fragments of the stick to use as tails for the small pigs. Tie a piece of twine loosely around the neck of the large pigs (allowing room for the dough to expand while baking, and allowing about 8 inches of string between the 3 pigs), and tie it around the necks of the smaller pigs to attach the three together.
8. Bake the cookies for about 25 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the baking. Bake until lightly browned, puffy and slightly firm to the touch.