Biscochitos: traditional new mexican christmas cookies
Featured Content: November 29, 2010 … Just in time for “biscochito season” this year!
I’m counting down the days until Alex, Boli and I hop on a plane and make the full-day journey back West. We couldn’t have chose a better time to visit since Christmas in New Mexico is the most enchanting and belly-satisfying time of year.
No Christmas Turkey here! We’ll enjoy meals of Tamales, Christmas Tacos, Posole, Menudo, Red and Green Chile and we’ll top-off each meal with a few Biscochitos (beez-coh-chee-tohs) dunked in a cup of coffee or served alongside a glass of wine. Every year my grandmother would bake dozens upon dozens of these sparkling cookies in the shape of diamonds, stars, angels, bells and simple circles. A plate of Biscochitos would be waiting for visitors who’d stop for good conversation and hot coffee.
Biscochitos are a melt-in-your-mouth-can’t-have-just-one shortbread sort of cookie. They are flavored with cinnamon-sugar sweetness and aromatic anise seed. But vegetarians be warned (yes, I said vegetarians, not vegans) these cookies contain lard.
During college my mom and my nina would each send me bubble-wrapped boxes of biscochitos. Now that I have a kitchen it’s time I bake my own. Below is my grandmother’s recipe in my mother’s handwriting. Like all grandmother recipes this one calls for ingredients in approximations and variations. The one I share with you is a combination of my grandmother’s, my mother’s and my nina’s recipes. You may substitute vegetable shortening for lard and water for wine but I guarantee that the cookies will not be nearly as delicious*.
*This has been confirmed by some of the Chez Pannise trained chefs at a school I attended.
Makes 9-10 dozen small cookies.
1 1/2 cups lard (1 pound box)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons anise seed
6 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sweet white wine (plus a 1/4 extra if needed)
1/2 cup sugar + 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
Cream together the lard and 1 1/2 cups sugar. In a separate bowl beat the eggs and anise, add to the lard/sugar mixture. Mix well.
In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add this dry mixture to the wet mixture. Knead well with your hands until dough sticks together, it should be slightly sticky but able to form a firm dough ball. If the dough is too dry add more wine a teaspoon at a time, if it is too sticky add more flour a teaspoon at a time.
Divide the dough into three large balls and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight so the dough becomes firm and manegable.
The next day preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough with a liberally floured rolling pin on a liberally floured surface 1/8 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Dip one side of each cookie into cinnamon-sugar mixture and place on cookie sheet sugar side up. To ensure all cookies bake evenly, bake each shape cookie in batches of alike shapes and sizes. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the bottom of the cookies are brown and the tops are golden.
Remove from oven, and immediately dip in cinnamon-sugar again, dipping them while they are warm is key to getting the cinnamon sugar to stick. Store in a cool-dry place or freeze for up to six months.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, beginning Monday, November 16, 2009 please VOTE for me at Bon Appétit! YOU will be eligible to win a fabulous prize and I would win a dinner with Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief Barbara Fairchild. xogabriela