Since learning that the biscochito is the state cookie of New Mexico, I've made it my mission to figure out how to make these tasty treats at home. Two things held me back: the sheer number of recipes out there for them—it seems literally every New Mexican grandmother has her version—and the fact that most traditional recipes call for lard, which I don't regularly keep in my kitchen. So, upon intense investigation and experimentation, I found elements of several biscochito recipes I liked and figured out that vegetable shortening works as a less-gross substitute. Traditional shapes for biscochitos are fleur de lis, stars and crescent moons, but you do you. If you don't have a rolling pin (who does?), a wine bottle will do, and I'm sure you have one of those.

But what to pair with such sugary goodness? Even more sugary goodness, of course. Coffee liqueur, which you might know as Kahlua, adds a deeper, almost coconut flavor to traditional hot cocoa. Added bonus: Making this is almost as easy as canceling plans because of "snow." The cocoa is my mom's recipe, so it's pretty standard, although I did add a touch of cayenne pepper and cinnamon to get more of a Mexican hot chocolate flavor.

So settle in, snuggle up and get ready for a sugar rush. We'll get through this winter.

Biscochitos

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or whiskey
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract

Topping:

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in orange zest.
  3. Combine cinnamon and sugar for topping in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl beat vegetable shortening with a mixer, gradually adding sugar, until light and fluffy. Add egg, brandy, orange juice, vanilla extract and anise extract and beat well.
  5. Add dry ingredients the shortening mixture gradually, stopping when mixture is combined. Do not overwork—dough will have consistency similar to pie crust.
  6. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
  7. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon dough into cookie press, and press shapes onto lined baking sheets.
    *Alternately: roll out dough to ¼-inch thickness between two sheets of parchment paper, using about 1/2 to 1/3 of the dough at a time. Cut out cookies and place on lined baking sheets.
  8. Bake cookies 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  9. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture immediately. Cool one minute and loosen cookies from parchment paper. Allow to cool completely.

Coffee Liqueur

  • Ingredients:
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups instant coffee crystals
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon extract to taste (optional)
  • 4 cups vodka

Directions:

  1. In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water over medium heat. Stir until dissolved and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, stir in coffee crystals and allow to cool.
  4. When cool, stir in vanilla extract and vodka. Bottle and store in a cool, dark place.

Spiked (or not) Hot Cocoa

(Yields 2-3 Servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • Dash cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 to 4 ounces coffee liqueur (may substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • Topping of choice (marshmallows, whipped cream or chocolate or caramel sauce)

Directions:

  1. Stir together sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, salt and cayenne pepper in a small saucepan.
  2. Over medium heat, slowly add milk, stirring to dissolve cocoa mixture.
  3. Stir constantly, until cocoa is completely dissolved and mixture is piping hot, but not boiling.
  4. Remove from heat; stir in coffee liqueur (or vanilla). Top with your fave sweet addition.