Around this time of year I like to put in my plug for biscochitos, those porky cookies made with anise seed and brandy that are a specialty of New Mexico. After my recent biscochitos post, a steady stream of emails from New Mexico began showing up in my inbox, all offering alternate recipes passed down through the generations. Of course, for professional reasons I was obliged to try them all, and I'm happy to report that they were delicious in all the various permutations. Still, I stand by my claim that all biscochito recipes are essentially the same: a mixture of lard, flour, and sugar, bound with just enough egg and brandy to make a dough.
There was one email, however, which asked if I'd given lard cookies from other parts of the world a try: for instance, Chinese almond cookies made with lard, and a particular Spanish cookie also made with almonds and lard. Having eaten one too many almond cookies at the end of Chinese buffet meals, I went with the latter suggestion and gave Spanish lard cookies a try.
These lard cookies were significantly different from the biscochitos I grew up with: instead of flour, the cookie dough uses a mixture of ground almonds and flour that are toasted in the oven briefly before being added to the dough. Grated orange peel gives the cookies the zest needed to cut the richness of the lard. These cookies are nutty and light; with a touch of powdered sugar and the hint of orange. They are, admittedly, just as good as biscochitos, though there's really no point in analyzing incomparable goods.
Recipe adapted from Fat by Jennifer McLagan
- 1 cup flour
- 3/4 cup ground almonds
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup lard, at room temperature
- 1 egg
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350°. Spread flour and ground almonds on baking sheet. Place in oven until flour and almonds and smell toasted, 5 to 7 minutes. Flour and nuts will clump slightly. Let cool.
Lower oven to 300°. Mix flour and almonds with sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Using wooden spoon, incorporate lard into mixture. Add egg, orange zest, and brandy. Stir until incorporated.
Form into balls, about 1 inch in diameter. Place balls on baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake cookies until bottoms are browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack. Dust with confectioner's sugar. Store in airtight container.