Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Biscochitos - New Mexican Spiced Cookies

As you can tell, I'm on a cooking roll. Lately I've been into crisp, thin cookies (thanks mom for the King Arthur Flour Baking Cookbook!). These cookies are the state cookie of New Mexico and traditionally served at Christmas. I made biscochitos a couple of weeks ago using shortening, but this time I tried it with more authentic lard. The shelf-stable stuff you find at the grocery store is hydrogenated and tastes funky, so I made a special trip to the Midtown Global Market and found the real deal (hopefully I can find good lard up on Central too).

Here's yet another photo I haven't managed to fit the subject into:


This recipe makes a ton of cookies (~ 3-4 dozen), but if you want even more you can double it.

1/2 lb. lard or shortening
3/4 + 2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. cracked anise seed (can be found at Penzey's)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. orange zest (optional)
3 1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. brandy or sherry
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. Ceylon cinnamon (canella)

Cream the lard, sugar, anise seed, and orange zest together in a large bowl. Beat in the egg. Sift together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix in the dry ingredients alternately with the brandy. At this point you can refrigerate the dough for a few days before using it.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough to 1/8-1/4" thickness. Cut into pretty shapes and transfer to cookie sheets covered with parchment paper (or greased lightly). Mix together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle this mixture over the cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges get slightly browned. Transfer immediately to a rack to cool.

Notes:

Originally I used a star-shaped cookie cutter and they looked so much cuter, but I couldn't find it this time :( Apparently a fleur-de lis shape is traditional, but cutting them into diamonds is a LOT easier.

I strongly encourage you to use Ceylon canella cinnamon (not Vietnamese cassia). It's more authentic and it has a delicate, red-hot flavor that goes better with the anise.

Lard will make a more delicate, crisper cookie, while shortening makes them a more cracker-like (though still good). Transferring them to the rack quickly also helps keep them crisp. I like to store them in a tin.

If you're wondering about the difference in flavor, the shortening gives it a more neutral taste, but the lard adds a little depth. I haven't had any trouble with the mouth-coating aspect of lard.

And here's another photo for the heck of it:

These are great with coffee in the morning!

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