Biscochitos: How to Make the Classic
New Mexico Christmas Cookie
with Rycraft Cookie Stamp
#536 – ZIA Ancient Sun Symbol
The word “bizcocho” is used for any number of baked goods in Spanish, depending on where you find yourself. But one etymological offshoot, the biscochito, is an icon: a simple, mildly sweet, flaky, cookie with notes of anise and cinnamon born in New Mexico when it was still a Spanish colony. The cookie is a mainstay during the holidays, and is usually eaten after meals with coffee. It is one of the definitive icons of the simple, hardy cuisine of one of the least-known culinary traditions in America.
Unlike Southern food, which has been codified and elevated over the past decade, New Mexican food—a rich patchwork of Spanish, Native American, Mexican and American influences—is still passed on mostly via family tradition. At best, recipes are handwritten on index cards, and even today no two families agree on a given recipe for almost any dish. As far as biscochitos go, tweaks like a bit more anise, a bit less sugar, or even slightly longer or shorter baking times can make the difference between someone’s favorite version or a cookie they see as inferior.
A couple of disclaimers about the version and process shown here: proper biscochitos are made with brandy—New Mexico is the oldest site of wine production in North America, after all—but rum makes an easy and inexpensive substitute, and we just happened to have an old bottle hanging around the kitchen. We also added a nontraditional dash of Xtabentún, a delicious anise liquor sweetened with honey from Mexico’s Gulf Coast. Also, even the oldest New Mexican viejitas today will use a cookie press extruder to shape her biscochitos—for this post, I asked mine to go super lo-fi old school and use her own grandma’s vintage tin cookie cutters. And then I photographed her rolling them out in direct sunlight, which made the dough unusually soft. So, these ones aren’t nearly as pretty as they would normally be. (Sorry!)
Note that for the vegetarians and vegans out there, traditional biscochitos are made with lard. In theory, you can substitute with vegetable shortening at a 1/1 ratio, but we have not tested and so can’t vouch for the results.
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 cups lard
2 tsp anise seed
1 tsp vanilla
6 cups flour
3 fresh eggs
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 – 1/2 cup brandy (can be substituted with rum or orange juice)
1/4 tsp salt
cinnamon and extra sugar for dusting
1. Preheat oven to 350º F
2. Measure and combine flour, baking powder and salt
3. Cream shortening with sugar and anise seeds
4. Beat eggs until light and fluffy
5. Add flour mixture and liquid. Knead by hand or with mixer’s kneading hook until well-mixed. In essence, what you want to do here is bring ingredients together gently, as you would in making a pie crust.
6. Cookie stamps: Roll dough into small 1” diameter balls and place on prepared baking sheet, then press down with cookie stamp that has been dipped in granulated sugar (to keep the dough from sticking to the stamp). Or you can roll the dough to 1/2 “ thick and press with cookie stamp to approx. 1/4" thick, then use a round or scalloped cookie cutter to cut out each cookie and place on prepared cookie sheet.
Dust with cinnamon sugar mixture.
7. Bake each batch for 10 minutes until lightly browned.
The above recipe was adapted from a recipe byTag Christof & Annabella Fresquez from: