Last updated on December 14th, 2021
I’ve lived in New Mexico for fifteen years and I finally made biscochitos for the first time this year. Biscochitos are an odd little cookie made with anise, lard (yes, lard) and brandy. Biscochitos are as ubiquitous to local cuisine around the holidays as tamales and pozole (posole).
History of biscochitos
The sights, sounds and flavors of this region are amazing, awe-inspiring and often overwhelming. But these sights, sounds and flavors have come at a price and have a tragic history behind them. It would be remiss of me to talk about the culture of New Mexico today without giving a voice to events indigenous peoples of the region endured for hundreds of years.
In the 17th Century, European settlers – the Spanish – arrived bringing their own culture, religion and even food with them. Mantecados or Spanish crumble cakes became one of the many dishes folded into the indigenous cuisine and over the years, evolving into the biscochito cookie that has became popular in New Mexico today.
Tips & Tricks for making Biscochitos – The traditional New Mexico holiday cookie
Biscochitos are similar to many other shortbread-based cookie that you roll out and cut into shapes. This cookie owes it’s particular texture to specific ingredients the recipe lists. However, if you make substitutions in this recipe, you’re going to have a hard time. If the texture of the dough isn’t precisely right, or the temperature is off even just slightly, your perfect cookie will crumble into dust on your fingertips. Or be hard as a rock.
- This recipe uses lard. Yes, lard. I know, I know; lard can often be substituted with shortening or vegetable oil. I do not recommend it. Butter also does not work in this recipe. You may even find many recipes online claiming that you can make these substitutions. We’ve tried them. We had a hard time. Use the lard. You’ll thank me later.
- You don’t need to change the recipe for different altitudes.
- The alcohol mentioned in the recipe is entirely optional. However, if you are going to use alcohol, use the recommended type and amount.
- Keep the dough as cold as possible until it’s time to bake your cookies. If the dough starts getting warm, place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
Biscochitos: New Mexico’s holiday cookie
- 3 cups flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 lb lard
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. anise seeds
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp. brandy
- Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into medium bowl.
- Crush anise seeds with mortar and pestle until coarse.
- In another bowl, cream lard and sugar along with the anise seeds until fluffy.
- Beat egg into creamed lard and egg mixture.
- Add flour and brandy until well-blended.
- Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and roll out to 1/4 – 1/2 inch thickness. Dough will be a little crumbly.
- Cut into shapes using cookie cutters or cutting by hand. The traditional shape for biscochitos is the
- Dust with Cinnamon and sugar mixture (see note).
- Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees F or until browned.