Last week we got our Christmas tree and I made two kinds of cookies. I packed them into the freezer before I thought about taking pictures, so the images here are from previous years. These are bizcochitos, the official state cookie of New Mexico. The recipe has been developed over the centuries starting from the first Spanish colonists in the area before it became a state in the Union.
Does your state have a designated cookie? Not many do. New Mexico was the first state to choose one, in 1989, to encourage traditional home cooking. You can check out this Wikipedia page that lists the official foods of some states.
I first found a recipe in Sunset Magazine but have since done my own customization. Most recipes for this cookie call for lard, which I would be happy to use if I could easily find some homemade that hasn’t been hydrogenated and preserved with chemicals. I had a friend who made her own and stored it in the freezer, and I might have bought some from her if she hadn’t moved away. Lacking natural lard, I tried last year to substitute coconut oil. Much as I love coconut, the oil left a disagreeable aftertaste in my cookies (as it did in some shortbread I also tried with coconut oil one time), so from now on I’m sticking with butter.
It’s a little odd to be writing on this subject when we Orthodox are in the middle of our Nativity fast (Advent), trying to abstain from most animal products until Christmas Day. But I must not be the only Orthodox woman who has to be cooking and preparing ahead of time, and if I wait until the feast to write about cookies it will be somewhat anticlimactic.
Mr. Glad usually votes for Russian tea cakes for Christmas, but this year he told me that bizcochitos are the cookie that he most wants to have on the platter for the holiday. That means I get to have the fun of saying “bees-coh-chee’-toes” a lot. I just ran across this video http://vimeo.com/33763745 of a New Mexican woman who mixes and kneads the dough with her hands the way her grandmother taught her. She adds extra anise seed — hard to go wrong there — and some other flavorful ingredients that I might try next time.
Half of this year’s dough still waits in the freezer, and if I get to it before Christmas I’m planning to cut holes in the cookies before baking so that when they are cool I can attach ribbons and hang some on the tree.
1/2 pound (2 sticks) salted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons anise seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
Beat butter and 3/4 c. sugar until smooth. Add egg and orange peel and beat until just combined.
In a medium bowl mix the flour, anise seeds, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and beat until well blended. Divide dough in half and flatten each half into a disk. Wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap and freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
Unwrap dough, one disk at a time. On lightly floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll to about 1/8″ thick. With floured cookie cutters, cut into shapes and place about 1″ apart on buttered baking sheets. Gather excess into a ball, reroll, and cut out remaining cookies.
In a small bowl mix remaining 1/4 cup sugar with the cinnamon. Sprinkle about 1/8 teaspoon of the mixture over each cookie; save any remaining cinnamon sugar for other uses.
Bake cookies at 350° just until edges are golden, 10-15 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to racks to cool completely.