I love saying that word. Mind you, I probably don’t say it correctly, but still, say it with me: beez-ko-chee-tos! OK and now the Spanish speakers can come and tell me what I did wrong. Why oh why when I was a know-it-all 8th grader could not some one have told me that Spanish would be much more useful for my future foodie self than French?
Anyhoo, about these cookies, the official state cookie of New Mexico and a cookie with culinary roots in both Mexico and Spain. (Raise your hand if you knew that states had Official Cookies–not me!) First they are made with lard, preferably freshly rendered and definitely UN-processed. Now before you skip to the next blog on your list to read today, you should know that pork lard has less than half the cholesterol and 1/3 less saturated fat than butter, so I don’t want to hear about health. If you keep kosher or are vegetarian, then I guess you have my permission to use an organic shortening. But seriously, that lard makes them both tender and flaky-crumbly–the same reason you use lard in a pie crust is why you prefer lard here.
Second point about Bizcochitos: they should have anise seeds and I had none. Shocking I know–how could I not with all those spices in my pantry and drawer both and the honest truth, is well, I have no idea. Blame it on the moves. The first recipe I checked only had anise seeds; the second (Martha Stewart’s) had orange zest, and I decided I could work with that and added a little allspice. I used 2 recipes to create my recipe because I found pretty different ratios of sugar to the flour/lard and decided to aim in the middle (Martha’s recipe had much more sugar). They also had somewhat different processes, with Greg Patent’s calling for a long time in the fridge and Martha’s taking less time but utilizing the freezer. I opted for taking less time.
So what did we think? I loved these cookies, although I think the kids wished it were a little sweeter. If you like shortbread or sables you will like these cookies. They are tender, flaky and crumbly all at once and the cinnamon sugar topping is great–it reminds me of the pie crust scraps my mom used to butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar for us as kids. Only better because the dough is sweeter than pie crust. This cookie will definitely make its way into my rotation; I would like to try other, less traditional flavors in it.
The As and Ss are for Alex and Sam of course. The flowers and butterflies made their way to a neighbor’s house.
- For the cookies:
- 412 g AP flour (2⅔ cups plus I added an additional 76 g to get the desired texture)
- ½ t baking powder
- ½ t salt
- 1 cup (7¾ oz/218 g) lard, room temperature
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- zest of 1 orange
- 1 scant T vanilla
- 1½ T triple sec liqueur (Grand Marnier should work too)
- ¼ t allspice
- For topping:
- ¾ t cinnamon*
- ¾ cup sugar
- *I was checking to make sure that these cookies were indeed made in Mexico, and Zarela Veracruz has them in her book, where she makes the point that it is one of the few places she actually prefer American style cinnamon (cassia) as it is sharper. I found this after I made them, so I used the ceylon, or true cinnamon, but actually I think she is probably right.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
- Beat the lard until smooth, about 1 minute. Then add the sugar and beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat 1 more minute. Add the orange zest, vanilla and liqueur and beat until blended in.
- Add the flour mixture on the lowest speed until thoroughly incorporated. The dough should be soft but it should also come together in a ball, kind of like shortbread dough. If it is stuck to the sides and you cannot imagine trying to pick it up and shape it into a ball/disc, it needs more flour. When all flour is added, do not over-mix, just removed the dough and shape into a disc about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
- Roll the dough out between parchment paper to ¼ inch thickness. You may need to re-chill the scraps briefly before re-rolling. Cut out desired shapes--the dough will be somewhat soft so handle gently. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Place the cookie sheets in the freezer for, according to Martha, at least 15 minutes, until firm (I had an appointment so mine were in the freezer for 2 hours). 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350 F (325 F for convection, which is what I used).
- Before baking, mix the cinnamon and ¾ cup sugar together thoroughly. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mix over the cookies--I was quite generous, be guided by your own sweet tooth or lack thereof. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, rotating front to back (and top to bottom if baking 2 sheets at once) halfway through.
- The cookies will be set and barely golden when done. Wait about 1 minute and then carefully remove the cookies to a cooling rack.