First, prepare the SIMPLE SYRUP: In a small saucepan combine the piloncillo and 1/2 cup water. Add the whole cinnamon stick and anise seeds. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Tip: use the smallest burner on your stovetop. Cook, uncovered for about 30 minutes or until thickened. Remove from burner and stir in the vanilla paste until dissolved. Note: I used a kitchen mallet to break up the piloncillo into small pieces.
*To prepare the BU~NUELOS: In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the coconut oil/lard, etc. until the mixture has a cornmeal-like consistency.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in 1/3 cup warm water (you may need a few more tablespoons of warm water.) Mix thoroughly until a dough ball is formed but not too sticky or too dry.
Knead the dough 5 minutes or until smooth.
* I used my KitchenAid stand up mixer to prepare the dough and you'll have to switch to a dough hook for Step #3.
Shape the dough into 12 balls. Flatten the balls on a floured surface with a rolling pin or use a wax paper-lined and floured tortilla press to form the shape.
In a deep saucepan, heat cooking oil to 365 degrees. I poured in about 1" of oil to the pan. Roll or press each dough ball into a 4-inch circle. Fry the bu~nuelos one a time, approximately 1 minute per side or until golden brown.
Place the bu~nuelos on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up the oil. Keep warm in a 250 degree oven. Once all the bu~uenlos are browned, transfer them to a serving platter. Pour the simple syrup over the bu~uenlos and serve hot.