Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cookie #51 - New Mexico Bizcochito

Yet another cookie that I may add to my Christmas cookie repertoire!

The first time I ever heard of bizcochito was in a Food Network special that featured Santa Fe Biscochitos, a small company that sells the traditional cookie.  Bizcochito is a thin, crisp cookie flavored with anise and cinnamon.  Traditionally, they're served at special occasions, like weddings and christenings, or at religious holidays, like Christmas.  They're very seldom known outside of New Mexico and it's a damn shame because these are some good cookies. 

This was the first time I had worked with anise seed.  I have used star anise in the past to flavor things like mulled wine, but never the actual seeds.  I must say the seeds themselves are quite deceptive.  You must grind the seeds first and then sift them to remove the hulls.  For every tablespoon of anise seed you probably get about a teaspoon of actual ground anise.  Allow me to give you a visual:

This is what you get:

And this is what you waste:

I was able to find anise seed relatively inexpensively at my grocery store - about $3 for a package.  The flavor the ground anise brings to the cookie is so worth it. 

Then there's the cinnamon sugar topping.  The recipe says to wet the cookie dough before sprinkling on the cinnamon sugar.  With my first batch, I used a pastry brush and brushed each individual cookie and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top.  When I finished the first sheet of cookies, I looked at the huge ball of dough I still had to roll and cut and knew that wasn't the way to go.  So, I got out my squirt bottle I use to moisten the oven when making pastry and filled it with water.  Then I got out my small sieve I use for powdered sugar dusting.  I misted the cookies and went over them with the sieve full of cinnamon sugar.  Easy peasy! 

I cut my cookies into star shapes because that was the first cookie cutter I grabbed.  Traditionally, the cookies are cut into a fleur-de-lis.  I didn't have such a cutter and my search of local retailers came up empty handed.  I didn't have time to order one online, but if you desire, you can do so from Sur La Table.

When rolling out the cookies, the recipe I used called for the dough to be rolled out to 1/2" thick.  I initially thought that was a bit thick for a cookie that is described as "thin and crispy."  I rolled the next batch slightly thinner at 1/4" and they were perfect. 

New Mexico Bizcochito

6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons ground anise seeds (grind whole seeds in a spice mill and sift)
2 2/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Cinnamon topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Cream butter, shortening and sugar together until light.  Add egg, egg yolk and anise seed; mix until well combined. 
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Gently fold the flour into the butter mixture until just combined.  Do not over mix and do not beat the dough.  Divide the dough into four portions and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  Flatten into disks and place in refrigerator for at least 45 minutes.
While the dough is chilling, stir together the cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar.  Set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Roll out dough in small portions on a lightly floured work surface. Be sure to keep unused portions of dough chilled until you're ready to roll them.  Cut out cookies with your cutter of choice and place on parchment lined baking sheets about 1" apart.  (If your kitchen is particularly warm, you may want to chill the dough for a few minutes before placing in the oven.)

Using a spray bottle, moisten the cookies with water and top them with the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they are lightly golden.  Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. 

Apparently these cookies will keep very well if tightly covered - several weeks even.  However, once you taste them, I can assure you they won't last that long!


The Dreamstress said...

Mmmmm....these sound yummy!

MG said...

Thanks for posting this! I'm a native New Mexican, descended from some of the first non-native settlers. We use these cookies for special occasions like weddings and Christmas. I have a few suggestions to make this recipe more authentic.

First, we only use lard to make these cookies. Don't be afraid my child! Just make sure that the lard is pure and fresh (i.e. not rancid). Lard will ensure your biscochitos melt in your mouth.

My family's recipe, and most of the ones I've seen, use a little liquid in the form of a fruity white or a blush wine; although some people substitute orange juice. Wine is better tho.

Finally, you don't have to spray water on the surface of the biscochitos to get the sugar to stick. Just roll those babies in sugar/cinnamon mixture immediately upon removal from the oven.

Maggie said...

Thanks for the suggestions, MG! I will definitely have to try them. I'm planning on making them again for Christmas. They were very well received by everyone who ate them. I had one person in my office eat 10 in about 15 minutes. He kept coming back to my desk for more.