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.
- 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)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground anise
- 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
The recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies, of course depending on the size of the diamonds.