This is the hard cone sugar that Sarah mentioned in the last sugar post. It's commonly used in champurrado, which I think I've mentioned here and is a drink with chocolate and masa that I love. If you can't find piloncillo in the US, you can use brown sugar instead.
But I'm in Mexico and need brown sugar which, if I can find it at all, is expensive stuff. It's one thing to buy a pricey bottle of fish sauce that lasts a long time, but a small box of brown sugar doesn't make a lot of cookies. So I wanted to see what I could do with the piloncillo since it's cheap and easy to find here.
The trouble was that it's so hard. People grate it here, but no one in my house was interested in grating 8 or 9 little cones for cookies. Someone recommended melting it, which I've done for champurrado, but that requires a lot of attention since sugar burns easily. I may be willing to be a creative cook when I'm overseas, but I'm not willing to watch a pot of sugar or grate my fingers.
So I tried bashing it to pieces with a rolling pin. And, wonder of wonders, it softened up nicely after lots of satisfying whacks. I used it in place of brown sugar in our favorite cookies (that call for peanut butter and chocolate chips which are two totally separate posts) and it was perfect.
It's always so nice when you find a decent substitute that doesn't require much effort. I can deal happily with whacking sugar.