Panocha, also known as panela or piloncillo, is a traditional Mexican and Latin American dessert made from unrefined whole cane sugar. This delectable treat is rich in flavor and holds a special place in the hearts of many for its simplicity and comforting taste.
Panocha is not only a dessert; it is a cultural delicacy that has been passed down through generations. In this comprehensive and highly detailed recipe, we will explore how to make this sweet and traditional delight that is sure to warm your heart and delight your taste buds.
- 2 cups grated or chopped piloncillo (unrefined whole cane sugar) or dark brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 cup milk (whole milk or evaporated milk)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- Prepare the Piloncillo (Unrefined Whole Cane Sugar): If using piloncillo, grate or chop it into smaller pieces to facilitate the melting process. Piloncillo is a solid block of sugar and may require some effort to break it down into smaller bits.
- Create the Syrup: In a saucepan, combine the water, grated or chopped piloncillo (or dark brown sugar), and the cinnamon stick. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the piloncillo (or sugar) is completely dissolved. The aroma of the cinnamon and piloncillo will fill your kitchen, creating an inviting atmosphere.
- Add Milk and Cream: Once the piloncillo has dissolved, pour in the milk and heavy cream. Stir the mixture gently to incorporate the ingredients. The milk and cream will add richness and a creamy texture to the panocha.
- Enhance the Flavor: Add the chopped nuts of your choice to the mixture. Walnuts and pecans are popular choices, but feel free to use any nut variety that appeals to you. The nuts will provide a delightful crunch and a nutty flavor to the dessert.
- Add Vanilla Extract and Salt: Stir in the vanilla extract to infuse the panocha with its warm and inviting flavor. Add a pinch of salt to balance the sweetness and enhance the overall taste.
- Simmer and Thicken: Reduce the heat to low and allow the panocha mixture to simmer gently. Stir occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. As it simmers, the panocha will gradually thicken and develop its rich, caramel-like consistency.
- Test for Desired Thickness: The cooking time may vary, but typically, it takes about 30 to 40 minutes for the panocha to reach the desired thickness. If you prefer a thicker consistency, continue simmering until it reaches your preferred level of thickness.
- Serve and Enjoy: Once the panocha has reached the desired consistency, remove the cinnamon stick and discard it. Ladle the warm and velvety panocha into individual serving dishes or bowls. It can be enjoyed both warm or chilled, depending on your preference. Sprinkle some additional chopped nuts on top as a garnish, if desired, and savor the comforting sweetness of this traditional delicacy.
- Some recipes include a pinch of ground cinnamon to enhance the cinnamon flavor further. You can add a dash of ground cinnamon if you desire a more pronounced cinnamon taste.
- For a touch of citrusy brightness, you can grate some orange or lemon zest into the panocha mixture during the simmering process.
Panocha is a cherished dessert that not only delights the taste buds but also celebrates the rich cultural heritage of Mexico and Latin America. Its humble yet luxurious flavors evoke nostalgia and warmth, making it a perfect treat for special occasions, celebrations, or simply to enjoy the sweetness of life. Whether you choose to enjoy panocha warm or chilled, it is certain to bring a smile to your face and warmth to your heart. Share this traditional delight with family and friends, and let the panocha recipe become a treasured part of your culinary traditions for generations to come.