What in some places are known as “palmeritas” (palm trees), or “elephant ears” in English, are the well loved “orejitas de chancho” (pig’s ears) in Peru. My first memory of orejitas de chancho comes from an amazing pastry shop in Lima called Montserrat (that unfortunately went out of business), where my mother used to buy all the stock of fresh pastry for her sugar-addict daughter (me!) when I was in bed with a cold, a fever, or an imaginary disease that would keep me from going to school.
This shop baked huge orejitas de chancho the size of my open hand, and the color and texture were always spot on. Now that I’ve tried baking them a couple times in the past two days, I have a new kind of respect for the bakers in that store, as I have realized for the first time that they’re quite easy to make, but not easy to make perfectly, the way they did.
But these heart-shaped puff pastry cookies were not a specialty of only that store in Lima; in fact, they can be found in every bakery in town. I’m not certain about the origins of the crunchy orejitas de chancho, but if I hadn’t seen them in many other countries, in countless occasions, with my own eyes, I would swear that they were Peruvian because of how typical they are in our sweet-toothed culture. But apparently sombody came up with the idea before us, and we copied it…stole it… call it what you may. The fact is, we Peruvians relate these sugary treats to our country and our childhoods, and hence, they’re Peruvian too.
Next tuesday is Valentine’s Day, another thing we have “borrowed” from abroad, and I was wondering what would be the best Peruvian treat for this day. I came up with a huge list of aphrodisiac dishes, drinks, and sweets that would certainly spice up the celebration for you if you gave them to your loved one (will share this list on time for V-day, don’t worry!), but then thought that this day stands not only for romantic love, but also for any kind of love and friendship. And so the cute orejitas de chancho popped up at the back of my head, with their heart-shaped sweetness that implies love at every bite. I think they are a very nice gift, especially if you make them yourself.
Now, I’m not gonna lie to you. It’s pretty hard to get the perfect shape for these cookies, and I had to get rid of about half the batch I baked because of how weird some looked. You also have to watch them closely so they don’t burn (all that sugar and butter around create the perfect combustion). But to be fair, this was the first time I made them, so I’m sure practice makes the master when it comes to these sweets. The taste, however, was just how I wanted it to be, and so was the texture. And I was still left with quite a few perfectly decent orejitas de chancho to share with those around me.
The verdict? They were gone before anyone could say Valentine’s Day.
- 1 package puff pastry (it brings 2 sheets)
- 1½ stick unsalted butter
- 1½ cup sugar
- *Follow the package instructions to thaw the puff pastry.
- *When it's ready extend one of the pastry sheets on a clear surface.
- *Melt the butter at low heat in a pan. Brush the pastry sheet with melted butter. Then pour sugar over the whole surface (I used a sifter to make it easier).
- *Fold one side of the sheet towards the center, and then the other side towards the center too, leaving a ½ inch gap in the center, between the two folds. Press a little bit.
- *Cover in butter and sugar again, and fold both sides again towards the center, still leaving the ½ inch gap in the middle, from the previous step. Press a little.
- *Cover in butter and sugar again, and fold one side on top of the other, so that your dough now looks like a tube. Press a little.
- *Cover tightly in plastic, and put in the fridge for an hour or longer. Repeat with the other pastry sheet.
- *Heat the oven to 380 F.
- *Remove the plastic, and cut the 2 tubes in ½ inch slices.
- *Cover a baking tray with buttered parchment or foil, or with a silpat. Place the slices pretty wide apart from each other (they may grow more than you expect). You may have to bake them in several batches.
- *Bake for 10-12 minutes. Turn and bake for an extra 10-12 minutes.