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Friday
May092008

Hello, Biscochito: A Primer on New Mexico's Official State Cookie

Biscochito
Before a few weeks ago, we had never even heard of the biscochito. But then, one of our spies had the good fortune of meeting with an extremely talented writer who hails from New Mexico (buy her books! here!); when we asked what baked goods were popular in the area, she mentioned this cookie. Intrigued, we tested out a recipe. We were instantly hooked by the taste--to us, it kind of tasted like a mexican wedding cake cookie crossed with pie crust and a melange of spices including anise and pepper--and eagerly set out to learn more about this magical cookie which has claimed the heart of New Mexico (in fact, it's their official state cookie). Let's get better acquainted with the biscochito, shall we?

First off, what is a biscochito?
According to Miguel Hambriento, who wrote The Foods of Old Mesilla, they're "heaven's own little cakes blended delicately of sugar and spice, flour and wine and other secret ingredients, shaped by the swift fingers of the linda señora into small diamonds and baked until they are the delicate brown of the maiden's cheek kissed by the New Mexico sun".

However, if you're seeking a less poetic explanation, it's an anise and cinnamon flavored shortbread cookie which often contains wine. It's frequently made with lard, which gives it a melt in your mouth texture, but shortening and butter are used, more frequently in this day and age.

 

What's up with this cookie's name?
Depending on where you look, it may be referred to as the bizcochito, biscochito or biscocho. There's a bit of debate over the name of these cookies. In general, it seems that they're referred to as biscochitos in the northern part of the state, biscochos in the southern part of the state. But wait, that's not all. In 1989, when New Mexico House Bill 406 declared the bizcochito as New Mexico's Official State Cookie, there was a battle over how to spell the cookie's name--biscochito or bizcochito. Several lawmakers got on the House floor to press for the "s" or "z". Eventually the Senate returned it as bizcochito.

Of course, as one wise biscochito maker says: "it is the taste that gives a biscochito the name, no matter how you wish to say it."

 

What's the story behind this cookie?
Biscochitos were introduced to Mexico by Spanish explorers in the 16th Century. In Spain they are called Mantecosos (according to our spanish dictionary, the word mantecosa means "buttery" in Spanish--love it). This cookie has long been associated with celebrations, sometimes being called the "Original Mexican Wedding Cookie", frequently served in a diamond shape to represent purity (just think about it--ew). Today, they make frequent appearances at weddings, quincenieras, baptisms and Christmas parties.

Are biscochitos hard to make?

Well, the recipe is fairly straightforward; however, as bakers well know, sometimes it's not just the recipe but your technique. As one wise New Mexican lady put it, "You must have the hands (manos) to make a delicious biscocho that will melt in your mouth. Most people will try and make good biscochos but they will turn hard on them". (Source: Osito's Biscochitos)

What should I drink with biscochitos?
We'll defer once again to the expert Hambriento, who says: "Biscochos go with vino like an egg on an enchilada". Sounds good to us, Hammie. OK, maybe milk or hot chocolate for the kids.

 

 

Where can I buy these cookies?

A few places will ship biscochitos within the US. Try out one of the following websites: biscochitos.net, goldencrown.biz, or santafebiscochitos.blogspot.com.
How can I make these cookies?
If you want to be a purist, here's the lard version:

Biscochitos from a Trusted Source
  • 1 lb lard (no substitutes!)
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsps aniseed
  • ½ cup sweet table wine
  • 6 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1-2 tsp cinnamon for dredging
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Cream lard with sugar and anise seeds. In separate bowl beat eggs until light and fluffy; add to creamed mixture. Add dry ingredients and wine to form a stiff dough. (add more wine as necessary.) Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

 

The next day, preheat the oven to 350º F. Have ready 2 ungreased cookie sheets.

Let dough stand at room temperature till soft enough to roll out; divide into quarters and roll to 1/8” thickness. Cut out with 2 ½”-3” cutter and bake 10-15 minutes, or until cookies are pale blond on top, golden on bottom. Sprinkle with sugar/cinnamon while still warm. Makes about 4-5 dozen cookies.

However, if you're queasy about lard, we won't tell if you try this one; for vegans, we weren't able to find a recipe, but any suggestions? 

Sources used:

 


 

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Reader Comments (49)

that was really interesting~
i have been to new mexico, but somehow missed out on the state cookie.
i guess i need to go out and buy that big bucket of lard.

May 9 | Unregistered Commenterbonnie

Never heard o this either, looks good. We make butter cookies in India, similar to this but without lard for obvious reasons!:D
1 lb lard puts me off, will not trying these, but good to know about new cookies though!Love the name:)

May 9 | Unregistered CommenterAsha

They should also be in the shape of a Fleur de Lis. :-)

Cool! Never heard of them before, but will be sure to look for them when jack and I are in NM (in just over a week!).

May 9 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

Awww, I was so jipped! I didn't see any bisochitos when I visited New Mexico. I'll have to tell my husband we need to take another trip there now. ;) Course, it would be a lot cheaper to make yours (and tastier).

An official cookie - now that is smart! Why didn't I think of that idea?

Although my kingdom is rather a lot smaller than New Mexico, I think I'm going to call a family meeting so that we can choose an official cookie.

There is no need to be queasy about using lard. I use it in my pie crust recipe as well as in a cookie recipe passed down from my gramma.

It's what makes them melt in your mouth, flaky and tender. In the markets, it's with the oils, not in the refrigerated butter section.

May 9 | Unregistered CommenterSequana

My family and I make biscochos every year for holidays, though our recipe is Mexican in origin and quite different from this recipe. But any cookie with aniseed and cinnamon has become a favorite of mine!

May 9 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

I cannot wait to make these.

May 9 | Unregistered CommenterKrysta

you had me at lard and cinnamon.

May 10 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

How fun! I now wonder what all the State Cookies are.... I don't remember learning this in 4th grade social studies. Then again, I don't remember much from school anyway (I'm SOOO in trouble next year when my son starts long division & asks ME for help!).

Thank you, sweets, for the cookie recipe. I'll try to make this with my daughter so that I can blame her if they are too hard.

xoxox Amy

definitely can't say that I ever knew about biscochito - interesting history for such a unique cookie!!

May 10 | Unregistered CommenterVeggieGirl

Ive never heard of biscochito either but it sounds great!

May 10 | Unregistered CommenterLina

Never heard of this one either. I have a huge bag of anise seed that needs recipes. So I'll be marking this.

May 10 | Unregistered Commenterglamah16

I like to say "Bisochito" 3 times fast.

Cakespy so interesting this history sometimes at my Blog I talk about Dulce de leche and alfajores that are typical from here.Nice word Biscochito! I like xxGloria

May 10 | Unregistered CommenterGloria

I'd eat everything you're posting about! looking very tasty! especially the cake on your previous post!
hugs
J

This is excellent! So glad you are on the case, as this cookie is completely new to me, and I need to expand my repetoire of cookie recipes that include wine!

Great post as always and so interesting! I have never heard of these cookies before.

You have been tagged please visit my blog :)

http://rosiebakesapeaceofcake.blogspot.com/

Rosie x

May 11 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

I remember eating these in New Mexico on my first visit many years ago. I've never tried to make them, but now I will. Thanks for the recipe.

sounds delicious! although i am from spain (yes, spain not mexico people!) i have never heard of these. like you said, in spain we have mantecadas which are also made with lard and are typically eaten around christmas time. my mouth is watering thinking about lard in cookies... next time i head west and stop in NM, i am getting some bizcochitos!

May 11 | Unregistered CommenterAran

Viva la Mexico! This blog is making me fat. Kidding! Love it.

May 11 | Unregistered CommenterSidney Ann

Bonnie: Well, maybe you should make a detour back to NM to try 'em! And if you don't have a bucket of lard, you're doing a pretty good job baking as-is (OMG your cookies!!!)

Cookie Jill: Ha! Georgia O'Keeffe would be proud.

Asha: Maybe you should try out the butter / shortening version! There was another recipe to try!

Ann: Yup! Something for your to-do list while traveling!

Susan: No way! You have to go back! Make these in the meantime to work up an appetite.

Dana: I think you certainly should call a meeting! :-)

Sequana: So true. I think for a lot of people it is a mental block. It's not a pretty word, LARD. But, I have tasted many a beautiful pie crust (and biscochito, now!) that have lard.

Christina: It's interesting to see how many different variations of recipes there are. We'd love to see yours!

Krysta: Bet the sous chefs will love 'em!

Grace: Ha! Of course!

Amy: You were gypped in social studies! In the School of Cakespy (we're waiting to be made a legal school) this would definitely be part of the curriculum.

Veggiegirl: isn't it an interesting story?

Lina: Oh yes...time to try 'em!

Glamah: Well then--sounds like it is about time to give the humble biscochito a try!

Obsessive Foodie: You make me dizzy.

Gloria: LOVE the alfajores!!! Yum!

Josephine: We dare you to eat everything we post about all at once. :-)

TW: Happy to help that happy cause!! More wine, please!

Rosie: Thank you!!!

Lydia: Time to try them again, I think!

Aran: We'd all love to hear more about your Spanish version!

Sidney Ann: HEY! Good to see you again! :-) Glad you enjoyed!

May 11 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

I have never heard of these before, but they look delicious. Thanks for the recipe!

May 12 | Unregistered CommenterCakelaw

I used to visit my dad in New Mexico and I made sure to never miss grabbing a few of these (to go with my cactus candy) so yummy. Thanks for the history!

May 12 | Unregistered CommenterEB
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