From my kitchen to yours…
wishing One and All the Merriest of Holidays
and a Splendid New Year of cooking adventures!
There’s nothing like Christmas in Santa Fe! With the mountains blanketed in snow, the crisp winter evenings scented with pinon and sage, flickering farolitos lining the winding roads, and the aromas of New Mexico’s world famous red and green chile cuisine that makes Santa Fe a destination like non other for celebrating the holidays.
Anise and cinnamon scented Biscochitos are synonymous with holiday celebrations throughout New Mexico. Origins date back to the Spanish colonists in Mexico who ventured northward and settled in the Sangre de Christo mountains of what was then called Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico.
Biscochitos are very easy to prepare and add a special flavor from Santa Fe to your holiday celebrations wherever you happen to live.
Santa Fe Biscochitos makes about 60 two inch cookies
Traditionally biscochitos are made with lard which may be hard to find these days or, for various other considerations, you may prefer an alternative which I have included for this recipe. That said lard has been determined to probably be a healthier choice than hydrogenated vegetable oil (Crisco) and lard was after all what made your grandmother’s pie crusts so flavorful, light, and flaky. If using butter I would recommend using a European butter with a higher fat content for a lighter flaky result.
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons lightly toasted anise seeds, coarsely ground
- 2 tablespoons orange zest
- 1 1/4 cups lard or unsalted butter (or 3/4 cup vegetable shortening and ½ cup unsalted butter)
- 1 cup super fine sugar
- 1 large egg 1
- teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon brandy or anise liquor
- ½ cup super fine sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Stir in the anise seeds and orange zest and set aside to use later.
Place the lard or butter (or vegetable shortening and butter) and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat together on medium high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Whisk the egg and add it to the bowl along with the vanilla and brandy (or anise liquor) and beat until completely combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in two additions and mix until the dough clumps together without over mixing. The dough will be a little softer than pie dough would be.
Remove the dough from the mixer bowl and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two equal portions and gently form each portion into ball and then gently flatten the balls into discs about 1 ½ inches thick. Wrap each disc in plastic film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours until firm.
Line 2 cookie sheets with cooking parchment and have 2 cooling racks set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350f/180c
Working with one disc of dough at a time, roll the dough out gently on the floured work surface to about ¼ inch thick. Using 2 inch cookie cutters, cut the cookies out and place them on the lined cookie sheet with a little space between each cookie. When the sheet is full sprinkle the cookies with the cinnamon sugar topping. Transfer the tray of cookies to the refrigerator to chill.
Repeat the same process for the second and third tray of cookies.
Remove the first tray of cookies from the refrigerator and place them in the oven. Put the second tray of prepared cookies in the refrigerator while the first batch of cookies is baking.
Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes max. The cookies should be light in color. Do not over bake!
Promptly transfer the cookies from the oven to a cooling rack. Let the cookies rest on the tray for a minute or so and then slide the parchment with the cookies onto the cooling rack.
Again repeat the same process for baking the second and third trays of cookies.
Storage: Be sure the cookies are completely cool before storing them!
A cookie tin with a tight fitting lid is ideal for storage. Fill the tin gently and place plastic film over the top of the rim of the tin and place the lid on firmly to make the tin airtight. The biscochitos will remain fresh for at least 7 to 10 days at room temperature. They can also be frozen in the tin.