LAS POSADAS AND BISCOCHOS

Along the Border in El Paso, they’re called biscochos and in Northern New Mexico they are called bizcochitos, but they are the same cookie and an important part of the Christmas tradition. They are served at nearly every party, but they are essential to Las Posadas. This celebration recalls the biblical story of Mary and Joseph seeking lodging on their journey to Bethlehem in order to participate in the census. Throughout New Mexico the story is re-enacted in villages and urban centers alike. Two individuals dressed as Mary and Joseph lead a band of pilgrims from door to door, often around the plaza, seeking lodging. Repeatedly they are turned away, often with scornful cries, until at last they are welcomed in –  usually at the church on the plaza – to find rest and warmth.

Once the crowd is inside the welcoming site, there is a celebration with traditional songs, hot drinks like atole, and treats, always including biscochos.

There are many recipes for biscochos, but the best ones always include lard. This recipe is the best of the best. It comes from Lorenza Zuñiga, an amazing woman who worked as my promotora de salud many years ago when I worked in the clinics in the colonias along the Texas-Mexico border.

RECIPE

Ingredients

For cookies

  • 7½ cups flour
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground anise
  • 1 pound lard
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3  cup pineapple juice (more if the dough is too dry)

For sugar-coating

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground anise

Method

  • Sift together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, and anise. Then add lard and mix well before adding beaten eggs and enough pineapple juice to make a soft dough. You may need to knead with your hands for a few minutes to incorporate all the ingredients.
  • Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a ¼ inch thickness. This should make a circle about 20 to 24 inches across. Cut into diamond shapes and place on an ungreased baking sheet.
  • Bake in an oven preheated to 350° for 10 to 15 minutes or until light brown. Check often as the cookies burn easily.
  • While the cookies are baking combine the remaining sugar, cinnamon and anise and place in a tray or other wide, shallow container.
  • When the cookies are baked, transfer them, still warm, to the sugar mixture in a tray. Turn them while cooling to completely coat them
Lard and dry ingredients

Lard and dry ingredients

Kneaded dough

Kneaded dough

Sugar and spice topping

Sugar and spice topping

Cutting two-inch diamond shapes

Cutting two-inch diamond shapes

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

Cooling and ready to eat

Cooling and ready to eat

The recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies, of course depending on the size of the diamonds.

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8 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes

8 responses to “LAS POSADAS AND BISCOCHOS

  1. I like pastry with lard – but in moderation of course. We also do dishes with suet pastry and thats good for savoury (eg steak and kidney pudding) and sweet (eg spotted disk – go figure) things

  2. What a great tradition! These look wonderful and I bet they are flaky and soft beacuse of the lard. My grandma used to make cookies with lard and ground walnuts (probably the best cookies I ever had). I love your step by step photos! 🙂

  3. Byanka

    This is the only recipe that came close to my gramdmothers recipe and would love to make it. But i became confused when you mentioned to add cloves into the flour mixture but its not stated in the ingredient list. How much ground cloves should I add if I need to add any? Thank you in advance.

    • I’m embarrassed. Sorry about the missing anise. I am in the midst of packing up to move to California so I don’t have my notes or recipes available, but I think 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground anise would work – depending on how much you like anise. Another approach is to toast anise seed in a dry sauté pan and then sprinkle lightly on the baking sheet you use to bake the cookies. My German grandmother always made sprinerle at Christmas. The cookies are similar to bizcochos. She would send a box of cookies to me at college and the anise from the springerle overwhelmed all the other cookies. Hope you have a Merry Christmas.

    • Oh I forgot to mention anise extract. About 1/4 teaspoon should work instead of ground spice.

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