WHILE GROWING UP ON SAN FELIPE PUEBLO, LaShon Cate learned to make biscochitos with her grandmother Candelaria Sandoval. “She had a day care with all the granddaughters,” Cate says. “We all had our own little aprons with our names on them. As long as I can remember, we cooked together.”
Beginning around age four, Cate helped bake the traditional anise and cinnamon shortbread cookies in the wood-fired horno outside Sandoval’s house. They made biscochitos for every family celebration, from weddings to birthdays. “You can make all the cookies in 10 minutes, because they cook so quickly,” Cate says. “The wood gives them a smoky flavor. We would cook bread first, and then throw the cookies in at the end.”
Sandoval’s family had an orchard, and the matriarch maintained the generations-old tradition of selling food and baked goods at the San Felipe Farmers’ Market. “She would cart us all with her,” Cate recalls. “I grew to really love it.”
There was also something special about her grandmother’s use of traditional methods and time-honored ingredients like beans, squash, and corn. “She utilized everything from our family field,” Cate says. “I loved cooking with her.”
In 2017, Cate launched Just Peachy Pueblo Biscochitos, selling at the farmers’ market and stocking cookies in stores throughout Albuquerque and the pueblo. When her grandmother passed away, in April 2020, the business took on added importance. “I have enjoyed having something to carry on that was hers,” Cate says. “I wanted her recipe to live forever.” (In fact, Sandoval’s recipe is now housed at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, where it’s considered the official recipe for a traditional Pueblo biscochito.)
These days, Cate uses a convection oven to bake around 800 cookies per week. It takes about 25 minutes to make each batch of dough, which is then rolled out and cut into circles. She dusts each cookie with sugar and uses stencils to add intricate cinnamon designs.
Last year, she partnered with San Felipe’s Black Mesa Farms to grow blue corn, chile peppers, pumpkins, and other seasonal ingredients she can use in her treats. “Part of our mission is to preserve our Native agriculture,” she says. “We want to use things we have had traditionally and utilize everything from the fields. It’s what we were taught and it’s something I want to carry on.”
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JUST PEACHY PUEBLO BISCOCHITOS offers a holiday box of two dozen cookies. Mix and match flavors like piñon, pumpkin spice, and red chile. Order by early December if you want to receive them in time for the holidays.