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Entries in new mexico (23)


Tres Delicious: Tres Leches Cake, The Pantry Restaurant, Santa Fe

Tres Leches, Pantry restaurant

Let's get one thing straight. They do not make their Tres Leches cake in-house at The Pantry Restaurant in Santa Fe, NM. Wait, don't stop reading! Because it still is legitimately a "homemade" baked good, made at home by the wife of one of the restaurant's employees. And on the day of my visit, it was extremely fresh--I was informed that this would be the first slice cut from this hallowed round of delicious. 

Pantry Restaurant

Yes, I said round. Personally, I'm more accustomed to a square of Tres Leches--what about you? But I digress. In terms of construction, the Tres Leches at The Pantry resembled a round birthday-style cake; it was frosted on the top and sides, with piped decorations in the frosting. But once cut into, the inside of the cake revealed more what you'd expect from the traditional "three milks" cake--a spongelike cake kept moist and tender with mass amounts of dairy. And indeed, this one was so saturated that it just about dripped when you tucked your fork into the slice. Yessssss. 

Pantry restaurant

The flavor of the cake was very good: milky, yes, but with a certain je ne sais quoi (look at me, acting all international!) to the aftertaste that made it compelling, and extremely easy to keep on eating. 

Pantry Restaurant

The Pantry Restaurant, 1820 Cerillos Road, Santa Fe, NM; online here.


Haute Chocolate: Historically Accurate Chocolate Elixirs by Kakawa Chocolate House, New Mexico

Photo: Missy Wolf c/o Kakawa Chocolate HouseIt's a funny thing about chocolate.

I like chocolate. I even love chocolate at times. But I will be honest. Once it starts getting discussed in "Fair Trade certified...90% cacao" terms, I kind of zone out. I am not trying to be disrespectful, because I realize that Fair Trade and purity are respectable characteristics of chocolate. But I find myself wondering "when do I get to eat it?".

But even though I admittedly don't "know" chocolate, I know that sometimes a chocolate comes along that kind of makes me hum a little bit like a tuning fork. It's really an interesting sensation. "Chocolate buzz"?

Photo: Kakawa Chocolate HouseAnd recently, I had such an experience with the drinking chocolates by Kakawa Chocolate House of New Mexico.

Called "elixirs" (oh how worldly!), they come in little round cakes that can be melted with water or milk or cream (see how I resisted calling them "balls", though just look at them...), and have an interesting backstory: 

The drinking chocolate elixirs at Kakawa are one of our most famous and popular items. These elixirs are deep, rich drinking chocolates based on recipes we have recreated from historical sources. They have been described as a kind of "time traveling" for thepalette, and range from pre- Colombian drinking chocolate to colonial American drinking chocolate as well as a few of our own inventions.

We first re-created several elixirs based upon the chocolate that was consumed in pre-Colombian
America. These exceptional drinks were reserved for the powerful elite and for special ceremonies (Cortez, for example, drank chocolate with Montezuma when he first arrived in Tenochtitlan). These elixirs are full of intense flavor, highly spiced with a wide variety of native herbs, flowers, and chiles.

and, even further, they appeal to food geeks because they are available in historically accurate bites (or sips): Mesoamerican varieties (unsweetened, like the Aztec Warriors would have imbibed), Historic European varieties (I recently bought SpyMom the Marie-Antoinette era variety; other types include the 1631 Spanish Elixir, based on a recipe from 1631 written by Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma which describes how the Spaniards preferred their chocolate), and a most fascinating 1790s Jeffersonian Elixir, a sort of crossover to what we now consider american hot chocolate, described thusly:

Representative of the historic drinking chocolate of the American colonies from the early 1700s to the mid 1800s. The first chocolate company in America was started by the Walter Baker Co. in Massachusetts in 1765. Thomas Jefferson loved chocolate and consumed it at Monticello. Due to its expense American drinking chocolate was simplified with less chocolate used. The drink became thinner and sweeter then European chocolate. Modern American hot chocolate is a direct descendant of this historic evolution. 

There are also "Contemporary" versions, and while delightful, weren't quite as compelling to this spy in terms of doing the whole "tasting time travel" thing. 

So, we've established that this drinking chocolate is interesting. But how does it taste?

The Mesoamerican varieties are compelling: deep and dark, and spicy--but to American hot chocolate drinkers, these are going to taste...well, maybe strange. For one thing, most of them are unsweetened. They're more like an espresso or turkish coffee--with a different, richer taste--and they will give you a powerful energy kick, but they're definitely not like the creamy variety at Cafe Angelina, for instance. So while I loved trying them for historical perspective, I don't think they're going to become part of my regular rotation. 

For me, the favored varieties were the European ones--especially the 1631 Spanish variety and the Jeffersonian one. Both were accessible to my sweet-starved palate, but still dark and complex enough that you could see how the transition was made from the unsweetened varieties to the sweeter American style. But they were still dark and slightly bitter, so there is no mistaking these for, say, hot chocolate from 7-11.

One thing was true for all of the varieties, though: with such a concentrated, pure chocolate flavor, it is impossible to drink these "elixirs" without getting a total buzz afterward. Maybe that's why the Aztecs dug it so much?

Moreover though, what is clear is that Kakawa Chocolates is passionate not only about what they are doing, but about preserving the history of chocolate and educating their consumers.

And that, friends, is totally sweet.

Shop on the Kakawa site for elixirs as well as confections, truffles, and caramels. They're online here and on facebook here.


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

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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