Many fun and memorable good times surrounding the holidays have been the baking and cooking. Even though perhaps we will be with many fewer people this holiday season with the Pandemic still very much controlling our social lives--the aroma of cinnamon, vanilla and perhaps anise filling the air when we bake cookies gives us a happy and fulfilling feeling. (Photo at right is my daughter, granddaughter and myself several years ago.)
Every family has their favorites. When my daughter and then granddaughter were young, we used to bake ginger bread cookies and enjoy frosting them with at least six or so colors of frosting and various sprinkles. A favorite that I learned from my Aunt Virginia, who was from Monterrey, Mexico was the Jingle Bell cookie, which I am planning to bake this weekend. These cookies are only filled with the good stuff, candied cherries and pineapple and at least two different nuts. I am sharing that recipe with you. It is a drop cookie. They keep quite well, once baked. We just got in a new batch of the real Mexican vanilla and fresh, fresh Saigon cinnamon, which are always wonderful in baking.
Here in New Mexico, Bizcochitos have long been a holiday favorite. They were originally created as a special treat for the Mexican militia who defeated Napoleon's army on May 5, 1862 in Puebla, Mexico. That is why the traditional shape is the stylized iris or fleur de lis from the French flag. These cookies are most definitely best when made with lard and King Arthur's flour--the red label. In fact, they are truly a lard shortbread, meaning you need to chill almost freeze the dough and roll the dough out to a thickness of just under 1/2 inch between layers of waxed paper, only using flour to dust the cookie cutters--never for rolling out the dough. Our anise seeds are very fresh and just great in them. The dough can be frozen and baked a portion at a time as they are the very best when just out of the oven.
Still need some last minute gifts? If so, why not contact me at 505-243-2622 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a gift certificate. They can be purchased in any amount over $25.00 for products, cookbooks or classes. I will then send you electronically a personalized gift certificate.
We are planning to start classes again in January. We will wear masks as much as possible. Also, the classes will be smaller. The next day classes are the Specialty Bread and Bread Basics, January 28 and Take a Tortilla and...February 18, 2021. Both will start at 5 PM. Our next weekend class is February 5-7, 2021.
Our next week long is set for March 15 - 19, 2021 and our Oaxaca tour is now set for June 15 - 21, 2021.
JINGLE BELL COOKIES
This recipe came from my Aunt Virginia who always made them for the holidays.
Yield: 10 dozen cookies
1 cup butter
2 eggs, well beaten
1 ½ cup brown sugar
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
4 slices candied green pineapple, cut in pieces
1 pound red candied cherries, cut in half
1 pound dates, cut into pieces
1 cup pecan halves
1 cup whole filberts
1 cup almond halves
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Cream butter and add sugar, beaten eggs, vanilla and salt.
2. Add cinnamon and baking soda to flour and mix well. Add fruits and nuts. Add sugar and butter mixture and mix well.
3. Drop by teaspoons on greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until firm.
BIZCOCHITOS (Anise Shortbread Cookies)
These spicy, anise-flavored cookies from New Mexico are rich, crisp, and very easy to make. They are the state cookie of New Mexico and one of my holiday favorites. They were first made to celebrate the victory of the Battle of Puebla, Mexico where Santa Ana's army defeated Napoleon's. Due to this, the cookie is traditionally made in the Fleur de Lis shape of the stylized iris on the French flag. Stored in a tightly sealed container, they can be frozen up to six months.
Oven Temperature: 350°F Baking Time: 10 to 12 minutes
Yield: 4 dozen cookies
1 ½ cups lard, chilled
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 teaspoons anise seeds
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
About 3 tablespoons brandy, apple juice, or milk
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat lard and 1 cup sugar in a bowl until fluffy. Add eggs and anise seeds, and beat until very light and fluffy. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture along with the brandy. Mix thoroughly to make a stiff dough. Place dough on a long piece, about three feet of waxed paper at one end. Bring the long end over the top and press to about one inch or slightly less in thickness and refrigerate until chilled.)
- Roll out dough between waxed paper to just under 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with flour dusted cutters into the traditional fleur de lis shape or into 3-inch rounds. Combine the 3 remaining tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon in a shallow bowl; dip unbaked cookies into the sugar-cinnamon mixture on one side. Place cookies on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until tops of cookies are just firm.
- Cool cookies on wire racks.
Notes: Butter or margarine can be substituted for the lard, however the cookies will not be as crisp and moist. Apple juice or milk can be substituted for the brandy, however they are not quite as good.