Bizcochitos are the official state cookie of New Mexico and have been around in different versions for hundreds of years. They're traditionally made with lard, always seem to have anise and some type of alcohol (like brandy or wine) or juice in the dough, and are sprinkled with or rolled in cinnamon sugar. I've been wanting to make them for years and finally did it! No regrets, these cookies are delicious. They have a crunchy, shortbread texture to them and the anise is delightful. It's definitely there, but is not too strong at all. Even my husband liked these quite a bit.
This time around I used shortening and orange juice, but in the future I would like to experiment with butter, solid coconut oil, and MAYBE even lard for the fat, and brandy and wine for the liquid. We liked these so much that I plan to make these every Christmas, so I will have many opportunities to experiment!
I got this recipe from a blog called The Nickel and Dime Ranch. The blog owner, Bridget, says the recipe came from a New Mexican cookbook called License to Cook. After I made the recipe, I found basically the same recipe on AllRecipes! I wonder if the recipe submitter got it from the same cookbook as Bridget.
Tip: After you've pressed the cookie cutter down into the rolled out dough, wiggle it around a bit so the cut out will be sufficiently separated from the surrounding dough. This will make it easier to remove the excess cookie dough.
1 C vegetable shortening
3/4 C sugar
1 tsp anise seeds, lightly crushed with a mortar and pestle
1/4 C orange juice
3 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C sugar
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
With an electric mixer, cream together shortening, sugar, and anise. Beat in egg, then orange juice. Scrape down sides of bowl. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to shortening mixture and stir just until the dough comes together. Do not over work the dough. The dough should be fairly soft and not sticky. Gently form the dough into a ball.
Lightly flour a clean, flat surface. Place the dough ball on the middle of the rolling surface and pat it down a bit with your hands so it's flat. Dust lightly with flour and brush the flour around with your hand. Roll the dough out carefully with a rolling pin, so it's about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick- whichever you prefer. I did both and they were all great! Add a little more flour if the dough starts to stick to the rolling pin.
Cut the dough out with cookie cutters and carefully move the cut outs to the prepared baking sheets with a very thin pancake turner. The shapes won't really spread in the oven, so you can space them 1 inch apart. Repeat rolling out the dough until it's all used up.
When the cookie sheet is full, stir together the 1/4 C sugar and 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon and sprinkle it generously over each cookie. Bake until cookies are light golden around the edges, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on how thinly you rolled the dough and how big your cookie cutters are.
Optional: You can gently roll the cookies through the cinnamon sugar again when they come out of the oven (before they cool) if you want. I didn't do this because we liked the cookies just fine as they were, but I'm sure it would be good this way!
In either case, let the cookies cool until you can handle them without them breaking, then remove them to wire cooling racks. When they've cooled completely, you can store them in a tin or an airtight cookie jar.
Yield: 25-50 cookies, depending on how thin you roll the dough and the size of your cookie cutters.