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Monday, December 16, 2013

Melanie's Biscochitos

I've lived in New Mexico for nearly seven years. I find much that is endearing about the state but one of my favorite things is New Mexico's official state cookie, the biscochito. While I was familiar with red and green chile, ristras, and sopapillas, I'd never heard of the cookies before moving here. As soon as I tasted biscochitos I became an instant fan. These gems are melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies studded with anise seeds and dipped in cinnamon sugar while they are still hot. It's a spectacular flavor combination.

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Melanie's Biscochitos


Source: my sister-in-law, Melanie Peterson, who grew up in Albuquerque.
Makes about 6 or 7 dozen

2 c lard
2 eggs
1 1/4 c sugar
1/4 c milk
1 T vanilla extract
5 1/2 c all purpose flour
5 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 to 2 T anise seed according to taste
cinnamon-sugar (mix cinnamon into sugar to taste)

Cream the lard, eggs, sugar, milk, and vanilla together until smooth. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and anise. Add to the wet mixture and stir well. This will become a rather stiff dough. At this point you can refrigerate the dough or you can roll and cut immediately.
On a very well floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and cut with a cookie cutter. Bake on an un-greased cookie sheet at 350F for about 10 minutes or until the cookies are just barely starting to turn light brown on the edges. Remove from the cookie sheet immediately, and while they are still warm, dip cookies in a cinnamon-sugar mixture. I find this is most easily done in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate. Place on rack to cool. 

Note: You may be somewhat dismayed at the amount of lard this recipe calls for but it is the lard that gives these cookies their pleasing texture. I'd rather eat lard than shortening especially if it is leaf lard. (I'll admit I worry that shelf stable hydrogenated lards have the same problems as shortening.) I have rendered my own lard from pork fat when I can't find leaf lard. You can find all sorts of instructions for rendering online, but here is a good one.

About altitudes: I've only cooked this at high altitude so I know it works. If you bake this at a lower altitude than 4,000 feet, let me know how they turn out. I know we could tweak it, but sometimes cookies don't need to be changed much.

2 comments:

  1. I loved biscochitos when we visited you in NM, and have wanted to make them since, but have been put off by the lard. But I'm determined to put that aside because they are soo yummy! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

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  2. Nancy, I imagine that your training put lard squarely in the "bad food" list, but there are some who feel that foods that humans ate for centuries are better for us than the stuff that chemists put together and market as food. For over 100 years we believed that shortening was an okay food, but we know now that it really isn't. Grocery store lard, though, is hydrogenated like shortening and besides that has kind of a funky smell. If you know of a butcher you can ask if they sell the fat that is found near the kidneys in pigs. It has the least meaty flavor and is the best for making cookies and pastries. I also have a mail order source for the leaf lard (that is what the rendered good fat is called). The guy I bought it from raises pastured pigs so they eat the best diets and the end products are of high quality. It is a bit expensive but I bet a dozen of these biscochitos cost no more than a dozen Oreos, although it has been so long since I bought any, I don't really know the going price. The leaf lard is shipped really quickly so if you want to make some biscochitos soon, you wouldn't have too much of a delay. Let me know if you want the URL.

    I also know a guy who sells fish and beef at some farmer's markets in your area. I could write him an email to see if he knows of a source for leaf lard where you are.

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