Above: New Mexico's official state cookie has simple, yet rich flavors of cinnamon, sugar, and anise. Photograph by Douglas Merriam.
GROWING UP IN TESUQUE, Loretta Sisneros Olguin had an elderly neighbor who made melt-in-your-mouth bizcochitos. “I’d never been able to find them that good again until 30 years later, when I tasted my comadre Trish Ortiz’s cookies,” she says.
Her friend gifted Olguin with a secret step: Slowly melt Morrell Snow Cap Lard in the microwave until it’s cloudy but not clear, 30 seconds at a time, before adding other ingredients. “It’s the taste that takes me back to my childhood. They’re delicate and amazing.” Olguin also recommends fresh dough over frozen or refrigerated, using a cookie press for bite-size biscuits and coating only one side in cinnamon and sugar.
Her fellow abuela Bernadette Garcia says that because she makes so many—about 20 dozen—she doesn’t have time for a cookie press.
“We probably have about eight cookie tins going at a time,” she says of the assembly line in her home kitchen. “I roll them out, which I think makes them flaky. You have to make them thin, no more than an eighth of an inch.” She uses an old jar to stamp out the sweet circles. “I recently purchased a Zia cookie cutter, but it takes so much more time. I only make a few of those, and those are for Christmas Day.”
Garcia says her aunt always used orange juice in her recipe, while her mother favored sherry. One ingredient is non-negotiable. “You have to use lard,” she insists. “There’s no alternative. You can have a sugar cookie, or you can have a bizcochito that melts on your tongue.”