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These traditional cookies can be found in bakeries all over Guatemala. Deliciously crisp and easy to make, champurradas feature the buttery flavour of shortbread with a sprinkle of sesame seeds for extra crunch.
Not overly sweet, they’re a fabulous accompaniment to an afternoon cup of coffee, tea or hot cocoa.
Origin of Champurradas – Guatemalan Pan Dulce and Pan de Manteca
Is it a cookie or is it a bread? While not as sweet as many other types of cookies, champurradas are definitely cookies. Beloved throughout Guatemala, they have their origins in the traditions of Europe and are similar to Spanish Marias cookies, bollos (sweet rolls) and Italian biscotti.
Although champurradas can be considered a Guatemalan dessert, they’re most often enjoyed at breakfast dipped in hot coffee or during café de las tres, the traditional Guatemalan mid-afternoon coffee break.
When I was studying Spanish in Antigua, Guatemala, I’d look forward to a plate of champurradas along with a steaming mug of café de olla — traditional coffee prepared in an earthen clay pot — at the pausa, the mid-morning break.
Along with Guatemalan French-style bread, champurradas are a customary part of a basket of pan dulces or sweet bread rolls served with a typical Guatemalan breakfast.
If you’re wondering how to pronounce champurradas in English, it’s “cham-poor-add-as” – you can listen to the English pronunciation here.
The names of delicious typical pan dulce or pan de manteca to serve at breakfast in Guatemala include:
- conchas, a seashell-shaped round of airy sweet bread,
- roscas, round cookies with a hole in the middle.
- hojaldras, a large, flat oblong cookie.
- Guatemalan churros, a flat cookie with a twist.
- hojitos, a flat cookie shaped like a leaf.
Unlike yeast-risen desserts and sweet breads that use white flour, champurradas are crispy, buttery and a slightly toasty. This is thanks to the addition of masa harina, a flour made from nixtamalized corn, maize corn soaked in limewater.
The most authentic recipes for champurradas will always include corn flour, it’s the key to their delicious taste!
If you buy a large bag of instant corn flour (such as Maseca), use up some of the extra in the biscuit dough for Fresh Plum Cobbler.
Ingredients for Champurradas
The ingredients for champurradas are relatively easy to find. The only two really unique ingredients are masa harina corn flour and piloncillo, cane sugar.
Maseca and masa harina
Maseca and masa harina are the same thing. They are a flour made of maize corn used to make tortillas, tamales, pupusas, sopes and as a thickener in traditional Guatemalan dishes such as pulique, a chicken dish popular in many Mayan communities in the highlands.
Masa is also used in the most traditional and authentic champurradas recipes.
Although my mother-in-law in Guatemala grows her own maize and gets it ground at the molinero, a community corn grinding mill in her village, it’s much easier to just purchase the instant version of masa harina, instant corn flour available already ground.
Maseca instant corn flour masa is the number one commercial brand in North America. You can find Maseca masa harina in major supermarkets, Latin stores and online at Amazon. If you store the masa harina in a sealed container, it will last for several months without going rancid.
Piloncillo, known for its conical shape, is a raw form of pure cane sugar that’s commonly used in Guatemalan, Mexican and Latin American cooking.
If you can’t find piloncillo, you can substitute it by weight with dark brown sugar and enough molasses to moisten it (1 cup dark brown sugar + 2 teaspoons of molasses). Grate the piloncillo cone to get the amount of sugar needed for your recipe.
How to Make Champurradas – Guatemalan Sesame Seed Cookies
In Guatemala, it’s so easy to buy champurradas few people make them at home. At our cousin’s house in Guatemala City, a vendor even stops by each morning to drop off a selection of pan dulce, breads and cookies.
Quite often the cookies and breads are served in a brown paper bag left open in the middle of the table. They’re available for snacking all day.
Here in Canada, Guatemalan desserts, baked goods and pastries aren’t that easy to find. So, instead of wondering where to buy champurradas near me, I make them at home. They’re a really easy Guatemalan recipe and store well in the freezer, so are handy to have on hand.
To make champurradas, begin by preheating the oven at 350 degrees F. Then, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl (see recipe card for quantities). Stir to combine and sift to remove any brown sugar lumps.
Then add the butter, shortening, 2 eggs (at room temperature), and vanilla extract. Beat on medium with an electric beater until all the ingredients are combined and a dough is formed.
If it appears crumbly you can use your hands to form the dough into a ball.
Chill for 15 minutes in the refrigerator.
Roll out until thin (around 1/8 inch thick) on a lightly floured surface. Each cookie should be between 2.5 and three inches in diameter.
Cut into circles and transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a greased cookie sheet. Another option is to form the dough into balls with a tablespoon and flatten in a tortilla press or between two plates.
Place on the baking sheet. Give each cookie about 2 inches between each other to spread out.
Create an egg wash by whisking the remaining egg with a tablespoon of cold water until pale yellow and frothy. Use a pastry brush to brush the tops of the cookies evenly with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake for 15-18 minutes until lightly browned – watch carefully so they don’t burn! Lift off gently and cool on a wire rack.
Serve your freshly-baked champurradas with coffee, tea or hot cocoa.
Tips and Substitutions for Making Guatemalan Champurradas
- Piloncillo, known for its conical shape, is a raw form of pure cane sugar that is commonly used in Guatemalan, Mexican and other Latin American cooking. If you can’t find piloncillo, you can substitute it by weight with dark brown sugar and enough molasses to moisten it (1 cup dark brown sugar + 2 teaspoons of molasses).
- If you don’t have a round cookie cutter, you can use the rim of a small bowl or a large drinking glass to cut out your rolled dough.
- Alternatively, use two tablespoons to form balls of champurrada dough and then flatten with a tortilla press or between two plates before baking.
- Cool these cookies completely before storing. If sealed in an airtight container while still warm, champurradas can become soggy. Cooled, wrapped cookies will keep well at room temperature for up to a week.
- You can make these cookies ahead and freeze them. Store well-wrapped Guatemalan cookies for up to one month in the freezer.
You might also like these cookie, dessert and Guatemalan brunch ideas:
- No-Bake Mango Pie
- Tortitas de Berro (Watercress Fritters or Mini-Omelettes)
- Chocolate Eggnog Drop Cookies
Champurradas – Guatemalan Sesame Seed Cookies
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Small Mixing Bowl
- Hand Mixer
- Rolling Pin
- Round Cookie Cutter
- Baking Sheets
- 1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1/2 cup Masa Flour (corn flour)
- 1/4 cup Piloncillo Sugar (see recipe notes for substitute)
- 1/2 cup White Granulated Sugar
- 2 teaspoon Baking Powder
- 8 tablespoon Unsalted Butter (at room temperature)
- 2 tablespoon Vegetable Shortening (such as Crisco)
- 1 pinch Salt
- 3 Eggs, Divided (at room temperature)
- 2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 4 tablespoon White Sesame Seeds
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir to combine.
- Add the butter, shortening, 2 eggs, and vanilla extract to the dry ingredients. Beat on medium with an electric beater until all the ingredients are combined and a dough is formed. If needed use your hands to knead the dough slightly to help the mixture form a ball.
- Chill dough for 15 minutes in the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven at 350 degrees F.
- Roll out until thin (around 1/8 inch thick) on a floured surface. Each cookie should be between 2.5 and three inches in diameter. Cut into circles and transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a greased cookie sheet.
- Place on the baking sheet. Space the cookies about two inches apart.
- In a small bowl, create an egg wash by combining the remaining egg with a tablespoon of cold water. Whisk until pale yellow and frothy.
- Use a pastry brush to brush the tops of the cookies evenly with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Bake until the cookies are golden brown but still tender to the touch, around 15-18 minutes. Transfer baked cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely.
- Piloncillo, known for its conical shape, is a raw form of pure cane sugar that is commonly used in Mexican cooking. If you can't find piloncillo, you can substitute it by weight with dark brown sugar and enough molasses to moisten it (1 cup dark brown sugar + 2 teaspoons of molasses).
- If you don't have a round cookie cutter, you can use the rim of a small bowl or large drinking glass to cut out your rolled cookies.
- Alternatively, use two tablespoons to form balls of Champurrada dough and then flatten with a tortilla press before baking.
- Cool these cookies completely before storing. Champurradas sealed in an airtight container while still warm can become soggy. Cooled, wrapped cookies will keep well at room temperature for up to a week.
- You can make these cookies ahead and freeze them. You can store well-wrapped Guatemalan cookies up to one month in the freezer.
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Dividing her time between Canada, Guatemala and Mexico (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is the founder of A Taste for Travel. Her award-winning travel and food writing has appeared in Lonely Planet’s cookbook Mexico: From the Source, National Geographic Traveler, Fodor’s and 100+ other publications.
Read more about Michele Peterson.
A little confused the ingredients call for 3 eggs divided. But the instructions only call for 2 eggs and doesn’t specifically say which part of the egg is needed. And the egg wash with the remaining egg is that egg white or both yellow and egg white?
I will just throw everything in wish me luck!
Hi Ashley There are three eggs in total. Two eggs go into the batter and one egg ( yellow and white) is beaten with water to be brushed on the cookies.
I love being able to introduce new foods to my kids. These are great!
Love incorporating a new dessert during the holidays, these were fun and yummy!
Guatemala is one of my favorite places I’ve visited and these cookies take me back!
These cookies look so tasty!! Love the sesame seeds on top as well, it makes them look almost healthy 😉 I love when you pick up new favorites like this when living in other countries!
when do you add the vegetable shortening? I notice it’s in the ingredient list but not actually in any of the instructions.
Hi Mimi…The butter and shortening are added together. I’ve updated the post so this is clear. Thanks!
I make these for my family, but never used piloncillo. I have to try and see what my family says, especially my Guatemalan husband and in laws. Sounds like it will make them better and more traditional.
The piloncillo helps make the cookies a caramel brown which is more similar to a traditional champurrada but the recipe does work with white sugar as well. Looking forward to hearing what your Guatemalan family thinks!
I’m always looking for an excuse to make cookies and try new foods and this recipe looks perfect.
These sound so delicious. We eat sesame candy so these are perfect for my family.