Growing up in New Mexico Christmas time meant, luminarias, tamales, pasole and of course bizcochitos. What are bizcochitos you might ask? Bizcochitos are the official state cookie of New Mexico. These cookies date back over centuries to the first Spanish colonist. Families hand down their bizcochito recipes through generations. There are often disputes over who makes the best bizcochitos.
I would describe bizcochitos as shortbread meets a snickerdoodle with a touch of Anise (licorice). If made correctly these cookies have a tender flakey crumb with just the right balance of cinnamon and sugar. Bizcochitos are perfect for a cozy night by the fire with cup of hot chocolate and the warm glow of Christmas tree lights.
Bizcochitos have the same buttery, crispy flakey taste and texture as a shortbread cookie. While shortbread uses butter as its main source of fat; bizcochitos use lard or vegetable shortening as its main source of fat. If you have access to really fresh lard, not the stuff you buy on shelf at the grocery store (I am looking at you snow cap). Then you should definitely use lard, you can’t beat the flaky tender texture lard gives this cookie. You can usually find fresh lard at a butcher shop or a Mexican food speciality grocery store.
If you can’t get your hands on the good stuff, or you or someone you know is a vegetarian, vegetable shortening is a very good substitute. The cookies will still have a wonderful texture and taste. Honestly I use shortening the majority of time when baking these cookies and they are still delicious.
I start with one cup organic vegetable shortening. I use organic because it doesn’t contain Partially hydrogenated oils or trans fats.
I add the shortening and a half cup of sugar into the bowl of my stand mixer. Note, this cookie has only a half cup of sugar, which means it isn’t overly sweet. Which is nice break from the sugar bomb some cookies can be.
It is really important to beat the shortening and sugar until the mixture is very light and fluffy, beat for at least three minutes.
After creaming the shortening and butter I add one egg.
While the shortening, sugar and egg are mixing away, in a separate bowl I whisk together the dry ingredients.
Here is where the magic happens, once the shortening,sugar and egg are light and fluffy it’s time to mix in the wine and the anise seeds. Not all bizcochito recipes call for wine so you could omit if you wanted to. I found the addition of the sweet wine added a little moisture to the cookie and made the dough less crumbly and sand like. Plus, let’s be honest I’ll use any excuse to add wine to something.
The recipe calls for sweet wine I went with the french Lillet dessert wine it’s got a nice flavor and it’s not overly sweet. After I added the wine to the dough, I mixed in the anise seed. The anise seed has a licorice flavor so a little goes a long way. I am not usually fan of licorice, but it’s not over powering in this cookie and it balances well with the cinnamon and sugar coating.
Once the wine and the anise are combined with the wet ingredients, its time to slowly stir in the dry ingredients. I just mix the dough until everything was combined, and starts to come together. I am careful not to over mix, because that makes for one tough cookie.
I transfer the dough onto a floured surface and roll out the dough to about a quarter of inch thick.
You could use a cookie cutter to cut out the dough into festive shapes, or you could use a water-glass or a small wine glass like I did.
After the cookies have been cutout. In a separate bowl I combine cinnamon and sugar that I will sprinkle on top of the cookies before they go into the oven.
Now the cookies go in the oven to bake for fifteen minutes until they are light brown. Pull the cookies out of the oven and place them on a cooling rack. Once the cookies have cooled grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and enjoy!
New Mexico has a lot of really great holiday traditions, this cookie is definitely one of my favorites. I hope you give it try, and maybe it will become one of your favorites too.
1 cup lard or shortening
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon anise seed
3 Tablespoons sweet wine
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
Cream lard and sugar until quite creamy (2 to 3 minutes). Add egg and beat until very fluffy. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture. Stir in wine and anise seed. Roll dough out on a floured board 10 1/4 ” thick and cut in plain squares or fancy shapes with a cookie cutter. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1 Tablespoon cinnamon and sprinkle on top of each cookie. Bake in the preheated 350 oven for 15-20 minutes or until light brown. Freezes well.
This is a traditional New Mexican recipe revered by Albuquerque cooks since territorial days.