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.
- 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
- In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in the anise and orange zest.
- 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.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for topping. 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.