The shape and design of the cookie immediately caught my attention. After just one bite, I was even more intrigued because it was like no other cookie I’d ever tasted before. I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and this biscochito cookie just happens to be the state’s official cookie.
Biscochito cookies are a long-time tradition in New Mexico with recipes handed down through the generations. The cookies are not an everyday treat and are historically prepared for the holidays and special occasions. So, what exactly is a biscochitos? I thought perhaps a variation of a sugar cookie, but it’s much more.
The cookie resembles a snickerdoodle, though along with the tastes of cinnamon and sugar, it reflects hints of anise. Soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside (but not too crumbly) the scrumptious goodness of this tantalizing treat makes it impossible to just stop at one.
Since the cookies I sampled were made by Celina’s Biscochitos, I spoke with owner Celina Aldaz-Grife, to learn more about these delights. Celina explained that there are variations of the cookie from the Spanish and Native Americans and that she was raised on the Southern New Mexico variation.
History of Celina’s Biscochitos
Celina has always loved to bake and used her grandmother’s recipe when it was one of those special times for having biscochitos. At first, she gave them to friends and family but was encouraged to bake her sweet treats year-round. Once word spread about her delectable cookies, the demand grew, and she opened her bakery after leaving a career in real estate.
The traditional method of making the cookies according to Celina is by using lard. She tried replacing the lard with more healthy ingredients, but the cookies did not taste the same. “Everything in moderation,” she says.
More Creative Selections
As Celina’s Biscochitos Bakery became more popular, she expanded the cookie selections to include fascinating flavors such as maple bacon, lemon, and green chile pecan. For fans of Biscochitos, there are seasonal varieties and lots of different packaging for gifts and businesses. Her cookies can also feature New Mexico’s state symbol, the Zia, which represents the sign of the sun. It’s not unusual for the bakery to produce 500 dozen of these cookies a day, much of it by hand using locally sourced ingredients. Her husband, David, lends a hand with maintenance issues and deliveries. Having reliable employees, per Celina, has greatly helped her business.
Though Celina’s family recipe remains a secret, she provided me with a recipe slightly different from the original. The special taste is not cinnamon but ground anise and brandy. I made the cookies from the recipe and must admit hers are better. Could it be her secret recipe or that I ate her marvelous cookies in New Mexico, the “Land of Enchantment?”
Celina’s Shareable Biscochito Recipe
Servings: 4 dozen cookies
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 to 1½ teaspoons ground anise
½ teaspoon salt
½ pound lard, softened
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons Brandy
¼ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Sift together the flour, baking powder, anise, and salt and set aside.
Beat the lard in an electric mixer, gradually adding the sugar, and beat until extremely fluffy and light, about 8 minutes. Don’t shortcut this step. Stop the mixer every couple of minutes and scrape the sides of the mixing bowl.
Add the egg, followed by the brandy, and continue beating.
Mix in the dry ingredients, adding about one-third of the mixture at a time. Stop the mixer as you make each addition, and beat no longer than necessary to incorporate the dry ingredients. A stiff pie-crust type of dough is what you’re seeking.
Chill the dough for about 15 minutes for easy handling.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out the dough ¼-inch thick on a floured work surface and cut with a paring knife into a fleur de Lis, or cut with a small cookie cutter. Avoid handling the dough any more than necessary. This is one of the keys to the melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Transfer the cookies to ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until just set and pale golden.
While the cookies bake stir together the topping.
When the cookies are done, cool for just a minute or two on the
baking sheets, then gently dunk the top of each in the
Transfer to absorbent paper to finish cooling.