Biscochitos para Cinco de Mayo

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Wish I could remember enough of my Spanish to compose this blog in that romantic language…alas no recuerdo!
Good thing for all of you, I do remember how to make these fantastic Mexican cookies called a Biscochito.  This cookie is the perfect union of melt-in-your-mouth, shortbread-style yumminess flavored with anise and cinnamon.  Not too sweet, not too rich….just the perfect little cookie snack.
These wonderful traditional cookies are found at almost every Latin celebration from weddings to quincenieras, religious holidays and fiestas all throughout the southern U.S.
Most Biscochitos are cut in a diamond shape, and sometimes you can find them in the shape of a fleur-de-lis, with a nod to an ancient French connection.  I’ve cut mine in the shape of flowers and butterflies to celebrate the Spring season we so desperately love here in Cleveland.
Typically served with hot chocolate, the Biscochito is perfect with any warm drink (I like tea with my cookies, thank you very much!)
And, New Mexico has made the Biscochito the state cookie.  Now, how much more authentic can you get?

So, let’s get this party started…the Biscochito recipe:

1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons aniseed
1 Cup sugar, divided
3 Cups all-purpose white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Cup white vegetable shortening or good quality lard
1 large egg
3 1/2 Tablespoons good quality brandy (or whiskey)
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

3 Tablespoons sugar combined with 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, for topping

Toast the aniseed and combine with 1/2 cup sugar. Place in a food processor and process until the seed is fairly fine.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder and salt.
With an electric mixer, in another bowl, beat together the shortening or lard, sugar-aniseed mixture, the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and egg until well blended and fluffy.  Add the brandy/whiskey and 2 Tablespoons water and lemon zest.  Beat until well-blended and smooth.  Gradually beat or stir in the flour mixture until completely combined.  If the dough seems too moist, let it stand for about 5 minutes to firm up before proceeding.

Divide the dough in half.  Place each portion between sheets of waxed paper and roll to 1/4″ thickness.  Refrigerate for 25 – 30 minutes to allow the dough to firm up a bit.

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Line cookie sheets with parchment.
Peel back the waxed paper from one side of the rolled dough, then gently replace the waxed paper and repeat on the opposite side.  This time removing the top sheet of waxed paper.
Using the cookie cutter of choice, gently cut each cookie from the dough.  You may need to use a spatula to transfer the cookie to the baking sheet.  If for any reason the dough becomes too warm to work with, simply put it back in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to cool again.
Continue cutting out the cookies until all the dough is used.
Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with the sugar/cinnamon mixture.  With the back of a spoon, gently press the sugar into the top…oh so gently.

Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven for 8 – 11 minutes, or until just faintly tinged with brown at the edges.
Transfer the sheet of baked cookies to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies firm up slightly (a couple of minutes).  Carefully transfer the cookies with a spatula to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months.

(Recipe courtesy of Nancy Baggett, The All-American Cookie Book, http://kitchenlane.com )

(If you want to learn more about the history of Biscochitos, I found a great website that give all the geneology as well as a delightful personal story.
http://biscochitos.net
Diane Porris, owner, Ositos Biscochitos, Las Cruses, NM)