Tensions were high Thursday, (Dec. 7), at the Taos Herb Company as elders put their taste buds to the test in the eighth annual biscochito contest.
Who won? Keep reading.
A total of 46 different versions of biscochitos – New Mexico's state cookie – hit the plates of the 10 judges from Ancianos Senior Center who sat and judged the best cookie of the bunch in the ceremonial event of the week. Contestants had around a week to prep their recipes for the judges who categorized the best biscochito by taste, texture, appearance and other factors making up this historical New Mexico desert. With musical accompaniment from Taos' Pot Creek String Band, the event lasted from 1 to 3 p.m. with free coffee and cider for those viewing the judging. Winners were chosen shortly after the judging ended with the $100 gift card to Taos Herb Company going to the winner.
"They tell me about the sign ups, and I just say 'I'm ready,'" said veteran judge Pauline Tafoya, who has been a judge every year since the contest began. "I enjoy to come and taste and eat (biscochitos) and be with my friends. Every year I'm here."
Tafoya said she has her own way of making the cookies and insisted she has no recipe or instructions written down, that she just feels the measurements. Along with some of the other judges, Tafoya has been making the traditional cookies for many years and guards her methods to retain the family secrets.
Judging the official state cookie of New Mexico is no light matter and all 10 of the judges took their jobs seriously for the duration of the judging. When asked what makes a perfect biscohito, Tafoya's entire table said, in unison, "lard, anise, sugar and in the right amounts."
After an hour of tasting cookies, listening to music and sipping cider with friends, the time had come to tally the results and announce the winners. Of the 46 entries, judges said that many were worthy of the winner's spot and even some experimental variations of the cookies made the judges top lists. Cookies needed to be the right texture to the judges and had to crumble in their mouths. Too brittle or too hard did not make the top cut for the grand prize.
"For my first year, I think it was fun," said judge Cecilia Gallegos. "A lot of them are hard, a lot of them are soft, but my favorite's texture was perfect. You barely bite it and it breaks."
Third place in the contest went to Lupe Anaya, second was picked up by Diana Rios and Sandy Martinez took home the grand prize for the day with the best biscochito at the competition.