Biscochitos

Bizcochitos Cookies
The “café” was nothing more than a cheap addition to a ‘70’s ranch house on a dirt cul-de-sac. I was in search of much needed caffeine and it was the best I was going to get in little Chimayo, a town without gas station, bank or grocery store.

“Excuse me,” I asked, “can you tell me what those are?” pointing to a plate of thin, simple, cinnamon sugar dusted cookies in the otherwise barren pastry case.

“Biscochitos,” he said with a look of incredulity at my ignorance, “they’re our state cookie.”

I purchased two of the unfamiliar cookies to go with my cappuccino.

New Mexico and I had already become fast friends during my first trip to Santa Fe to experience the Christmas Eve luminarias. My fondness grew this trip during my drive from Albuquerque to Taos to Chimayo – surrounded by stretches of Georgia O’Keeffe painted deserts under infinite azure, cloud-crowded skies.

As I sipped my cappuccino and munched on the crunchy, anise-cinnamon-flavored biscuits, I found another excuse to fall in love. Any state, I mused, that had an official state cookie (the first) deserved my adoration.


Biscochitos (Bizcochitos)

  • Servings: 88 cookies about 1 ½” in size
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Lard isn’t something most of us keep in our kitchen. For the best flavor, it’s worth purchasing lard, but feel free to substitute shortening in a pinch.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon table salt (not Kosher)
  • 1 Tablespoon anise seed, crushed
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 cup lard (you can substitute vegetable shortening in a pinch)
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tablespoon brandy
  • Topping
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in the anise and orange zest.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat together sugar, lard and butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and brandy and beat until combined. Gradually beat in the flour, a little at a time, just until combined. Dough should be similar in consistency to pie crust dough. Form into a brick, cover and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for topping.
  4. In between 2 sheets of waxed paper, roll out dough to ¼ inch thickness. Cut out cookies (I used a small 1½” circle cutter). Place cookies on baking sheet and bake until just barely golden and set, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies cool for 1 minute, and then carefully toss them into the cinnamon sugar. Place on cooling rack until completely cooled. These cookies make great coffee dunkers – but are also tasty nibbled plain.

 

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Chocolate Dulce de Leche Viennese Whirls

Viennese Whirls
Sigh. It’s the end of 8 ½ months of doing (or not doing) whatever in the hell I want. Every. Single. Day. I do admit it’s been lovely.  There’ll be no more daily sleeping until noon, alfresco reading of the news and drinking bottomless cappuccinos before leisurely mid-day bike rides. No more museum visits and beach days and hours spent endlessly cooking in my pj’s. My sabbatical has ended and, today, I’m once again joining the working class. While the company will be a new one, my coworkers, for the most part, will be old friends from my previous job – if one must work for a living, one truly couldn’t ask for a better situation. I really do admire and respect these people. My dreams of being an Innkeeper are not forgotten, just postponed. The search for my dream property has been tougher than expected. I’m convinced it will happen when the time is right.

With an 8-5 schedule, and little time to bake just around the corner, this weekend I decided to belly-up to my stove and make a batch of cookies as a thank you to those friends who have helped me during my 8 month much-needed break. As could be expected from my track record, the first batch made it into my belly rather than their doorsteps – requiring a second batch that were packaged and delivered as intended.

Here’s to beginning my next chapter – and a growing belly that didn’t think it came quick enough.


Chocolate Dulce de Leche Viennese Whirls

These cookies were inspired by two of my favorite cookie recipes – these Viennese whirls and these chocolately dulce de leche bar cookies.

Ingredients

    Chocolate dulce de leche ganache
  • 6 oz. dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa)
  • 6 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 12 oz. dulce de leche
  • Cookies
  • 9 oz. unsalted butter, very soft (not European style)
  • 1 ¾ oz. confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • ⅛ teaspoon table salt (not kosher salt)
  • 8 oz. all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz. cornstarch

Directions

  1. Make ganache: Place the chocolate and heavy whipping cream in a microwave safe bowl and microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until completely melted (60-90 seconds). Add dulce de leche and stir until completely combined and smooth. Cover and refrigerate until spreadable consistency, about 90 minutes.
  2. Make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 375F. Line 3 baking sheets with baking parchment. Using a 2” round cutter as a guide, draw 8 circles on each sheet of paper, spaced well apart. Turn the paper over so the pencil marks are underneath.
  3. Beat the butter, confectioner’s sugar and salt in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Sift in the flour and cornstarch and beat until thoroughly mixed. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium star nozzle. Pipe 24 swirled rounds (not rosettes), inside the circles on the baking sheets. Refrigerate cookies for 15 minutes before baking (this will help cookies retain their shape).
  4. Bake in the center of the oven for 13—15 minutes, until pale golden-brown. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Assemble: Pipe a layer of ganache onto the flat side of 12 of the cookies and sandwich with the remaining cookies. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Enjoy!.


Chocolate dulce de leche whirls

Raspberry-Rose Viennese Whirls

Viennese Whirls
If baking is Love made edible, then these Viennese whirls are my billet-doux to St. Valentine, himself – layers of homemade raspberry-rose jam and vanilla buttercream sandwiched between delicate melt-in-your-mouth Viennese cookies. Will you be mine, Valentine?


Raspberry Rose Viennese Whirls

Love made edible – slightly adapted from Mary Berry’s recipe.

Ingredients

    Jam
  • 7 oz. frozen raspberries
  • 7 oz. sugar
  • 4 teaspoons rose water
  • Cookies
  • 9 oz. unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1 ¾ oz. confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • ⅛ teaspoon table salt (not kosher salt)
  • 8 oz. all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz. cornstarch
  • Buttercream
  • 3 ½ oz. unsalted butter, softened
  • 7 oz. confectioner’s sugar, sifted plus more for dusting
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Make the jam: Combine the frozen raspberries and sugar in a small deep-sided saucepan and bring to boil over a medium heat. When the sugar is melted, increase the heat and boil for another 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add rose water. Transfer to a small container (pass it through a sieve if you’d rather not have seeds in your jam). Leave to cool and set.
  2. Make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 375F. Line 3 baking sheets with baking parchment. Using a 2” round cutter as a guide, draw 8 circles on each sheet of paper, spaced well apart. Turn the paper over so the pencil marks are underneath.
  3. Beat the butter, confectioner’s sugar and salt in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Sift in the flour and cornstarch and beat until thoroughly mixed. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium star nozzle. Pipe 24 swirled rounds (not rosettes), inside the circles on the baking sheets. Refrigerate cookies for 15 minutes before baking (this will help cookies retain their shape).
  4. Bake in the center of the oven for 13—15 minutes, until pale golden-brown. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Make Buttercream: Beat the butter, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla until fluffy and smooth. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a medium star nozzle.
  6. Assemble: Spoon a layer of jam onto the flat side of 12 of the cookies and place jam-side up on a cooling rack. Pipe an equal thickness of buttercream over the jam and sandwich with the remaining cookies. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Share the love.

Lemon Verbena Shortbread

Lemon Shortbread
When someone learns I’m a chef and food blogger, one of the first questions is usually, “What is your specialty?” I’m never quite sure how to respond – Everything edible?

If I’m honest, I should respond that I’m really, really skilled at whipping up a batch of cookies somewhere around midnight because, well, it amounts to the almost nightly use of my oven. One bowl, a handful of ingredients, a sheet pan and, viola, late night sweet treats – to the detriment of my waistline.

Take, for example, these Lemon Verbena Shortbread cookies, last night’s recent addition to my “Cookies at Midnight” series.


Lemon Verbena Shortbread

  • Servings: 16 cookies
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If you don’t have access to lemon verbena, these would also be tasty with a ¾ teaspoon of lemon zest instead.

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 8 to 12 lemon verbena leaves
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 6 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ t. salt
  • Colored crystal sugar for decoration, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a food processor, pulse sugar with lemon verbena leaves until sugar is highly fragrant and flecked with green. Add leaves as needed to get desired flavor.
  2. Add flour, cold butter, cornstarch and salt and pulse until mixture resembles fresh breadcrumbs (dough will be very dry).
  3. Pour dough into an 8” spring form pan and press down firmly. Sprinkle liberally with crystal sugar and press into dough. Pierce dough all over with fork.
  4. Baked until pale golden, about 35-40 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, release sides of pan and then cut shortbread into 16 wedges. Using a spatula, carefully transfer shortbread to a platter or cooling rack.

Easy Shortbread

Cranberry-Almond Sandwich Biscotti

Bakewell Biscotti
Crunchy Cranberry Almond Biscotti stuffed and baked with cranberry jam and buttery almond crème – ummm…yes, please! I borrowed this idea from Dominique Ansel’s recipe in Food and Wine and used ingredients I already had on hand from earlier bakes of these Biscotti and Bakewell Mini Tarts – combining the best of both worlds into a very special holiday cookie, indeed!


Cranberry-Almond Sandwich Biscotti

  • Servings: About 3 Dozen
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Inspired by Dominique Ansel’s Bakewell Biscotti.

Ingredients

  • ½ Biscotti Cookie Dough recipe (use the other ½ for standard biscotti or make a double batch)
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, chopped
  • ½ stick (2 oz.) unsalted butter
  • 6 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup almond flour
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 6 oz. smooth cranberry or smooth tart cherry jam (push through a sieve if needed to ensure jam is smooth)

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Parchment and spray a sheet pan. Stir dried cranberries and slivered almonds into dough. Divide dough into two rolls about 14” long. Place rolls 4” apart on sheet pan. Flatten each roll to about 3” wide so each log should be about 3” x 14”. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are set and logs are light golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together unsalted butter, confectioner’s sugar, egg, almond flour and cornstarch. Transfer almond crème to a pastry bag fitting with a small tip. Set aside. Transfer jam to a separate pastry bag fitted with a small tip. If you don’t have pastry bags, use zip-lock bags and cut a small hole in one tip of the bag.
  3. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut each log crosswise thinly into ¼” slices. Arrange half of the slices on a sheet pan. Cover the slices with a thin line of almond crème and drizzle crème with cranberry jam. Place the other half of the slices on top and press down slightly to ensure filling is even within the cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes, turn over and bake another 5 minutes. Cool completely.