Recipe: The crispy, cinnamon and anise biscochito

These December babies were born during 'biscochito season' in Taos. Katharine Egli

Food and holidays go together like ... well ... food and holidays. This is that time of year when the gym pass accumulates a little dust and indulgence takes charge. And why not? We’ve earned the splurge. Besides, who can pass up a crispy, lard-based cookie flavored with brandy, anise and cinnamon? Derived from the Spanish bizcocho, biscochitos (or biscochos as they are called in the southern part of the state) are the state cookie of New Mexico, after all.

The common history of the biscochito begins in Spain, where they are apply known as mantecados — manteca means lard. Conquistadors brought the treat with them in the 16th century. There is another account of the cookie’s origin that says they were first baked in 1862 after the Battle of Puebla in Mexico. The skirmish resulted in the overthrow of Emperor Maximilian, which is celebrated as Cinco de Mayo.

No matter where they originated, this holiday staple has been pleasing New Mexicans’ taste buds for about 400 years. Biscochitos are often served during special celebrations, such as wedding receptions, baptisms and religious holidays (especially during the Christmas season). Because biscochitos were the original Mexican wedding cookie, they were cut into diamond shapes, as diamonds signified purity for weddings. The fleur-de-lis is another traditional shape for these cookies — as a representation of their European heritage — but many other shapes are used as well. Tradition says if you open a package of biscochitos and one is broken, that is the one to be eaten first. These treats are commonly paired with hot chocolate, coffee or milk.

You can find ready-to-eat cookies and biscochito mixes at all Taos grocery stores. In case you’d like to make them yourself, a traditional recipe is in the sidebar. Merry munching!

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