December 14, 2009

12 Days of Goodies- Day 2: Bizcochitos

So on to day two, and feeling a wee bit more rested than I was from day one! Which is a good thing since I have 10 more days to go and many more things to accomplish this holiday season. Nevertheless, I love the holidays. The general spirit in the air, the gift giving (and receiving...), and how this time of year makes for an excellent excuse to bake and eat an obscene amount of sweets. I religiously flip through and browse food magazines and websites, and thus have accumulated quite a large stack of recipes I eventually want to try. Sometimes those recipes are added to the bottom of the pile, only to slowly work their way up, but other times, a special recipe might grab my attention and get ushered straight to the top.

This recipe for bizcochitos (pronounced bees-ko-CHEE-toh) did just that. The story behind these little cookies and the flavors they promised were too intriguing to put off until later. It seemed fitting for the occasion too since it is usually served on special occasions such as Christmas. The bizcochito is of Spanish origin and was named the official state cookie of New Mexico about 20 years ago. The ingredients are equally as interesting: anise, sherry, cinnamon-sugar served along side a dipping sauce of chocolate, coffee, and cayenne. The results were as expected; they were delicious, of course, but the bizcochito was also light, crisp, and completely complex. Each bite kept my taste buds guessing and yearning for just one more cookie, dipped in a rich, and equally as complex chocolate sauce.

Bizcochitos with Mexican Chocolate Dipping Sauce
Recipe Courtesy of Cuisine At Home

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tsp anise extract
2 tablespoons anise seed

For the coating:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

2. Using a hand mixer on medium speed, cream shortening, butter, and sugar together until mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Beat egg, sherry, and anise extract into shortening mixture. Add anise seed and half of the flour mixture; beat on low speed until ingredients are blended. Beat in remaining flour mixture until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

3. Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a disk; wrap in plastic. Chill dough at least 2 hours before rolling out. (Dough may be frozen up to one month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before rolling out.)

4. Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. Coat baking sheets with nonstick spray.

5. On a well-floured work surface, roll out dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch. Shape cookies using a metal ruler, and cut the dough into parallel 1-inch strips, then again at an angle to form diamonds. Transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheets using an offset spatula.

6. Bake cookies until set and lightly golden brown around the edges, 15-18 minutes. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, mix sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Gently coat warm cookies in sugar mixture, then transfer cookies to a rack to finish cooling. Serve cookies with Mexican Chocolate Dipping Sauce (see below).

Makes about 100 two-inch cookies

Mexican Chocolate Dipping Sauce

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons coffee liqueur
2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch cayenne pepper

1. Place all ingredients in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in the microwave for about two minutes. Whisk mixture until smooth.

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