The name gorditas is used in an endearing manner in Mexico to describe many small but "fatty" (referring to thickness) foods. Everyone loves gorditas, and there are many different kinds. I tried these in Nuevo Leon and love them because they are fried, which makes them (or me) double gordita. I also like them because of the salty cheese and piloncillo (unrefined sugar) that make them go wonderfully with a hot chocolate.
Combine the piloncillo, cheese, and canela in a bowl and knead in the masa until uniformly distributed. Add a bit of water if it feels too dry or a little masa harina if it's too sticky. Shape the dough into 12 even balls.
Place enough lard in a heavy pot to reach a depth of least 3 inches and heat to about 365°F. (You can check the temperature by dipping a wooden spoon in the fat; once it steadily bubbles, it's ready.) While this heats, flatten the masa rounds between your hands (you can dampen your hands very lightly so they don't stick or press down on top with a piece of plastic wrap) to about 1/8 inch thick. Slide them into the hot fat and bathe them with a spoon so they are covered with fat at all times, and turn often, frying until they are golden on all sides and make sure not to overcrowd the pan. Drain on paper bags or towels and enjoy warm. (You can keep them in a warming oven for 15 minutes.)
Photo: Ed Anderson © 2010
Reprinted with permission from My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats by Fany Gerson, copyright © 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc."