Whew! Our decorations are up…The house is in full holiday mode. Two trees, 5 stockings, all those wreaths. Suddenly it’s Christmastime at the Kee home.
Or maybe not.
How can one possibly be in the holiday spirit when it’s 80 degrees outside? When the calendar says December, but the temperature says May? And we’re wearing shorts and flip-flops instead of mufflers, gloves and cupping a warm mug of hot chocolate by the skating pond. When it’s TOO #$%# WARM!
Welcome to the holidays in Texas.
Now if you live in Maine or Illinois, we hear you loud and clear, “Quit complaining!” But if you’re like me and you live in a land of heat- often unbearable, don’t-go-outside-for-3-days, August heat, you CRAVE some cold. Just a small dip below 40º would be wonderful. Maybe a tiny blizzard. Or a thin sheet of ice. Heck, even a snowflake or two would cause spasms of excitement.
Alas, not in Texas. At least not today when it’s verging on perfect weather.
One person in the family is happy though. Sarah, home from college in the cold northeast, has set up the hammock in the backyard and is (insert air quotes) “doing homework” on her computer. Her only complaint? It’s too hot. She has to keep moving the hammock to chase the shade.
But let’s get into the holiday spirit…Have you ever been to New Mexico, especially Santa Fe or Taos, at Christmastime? It’s magical. Brightly lit farolitos line snow-covered streets. Piñon smoke wafts through the air and down canyon walls. Kiva fireplaces offer cozy corners for enjoying steamy bowls of hearty New Mexican soups.
We’ll be heading to Northern New Mexico in a few weeks for our annual stay after the holidays, but in the meantime we’ll go there -at least mentally- with bizcochitos, the state’s traditional Christmas cookie. Crunchy and addicting, each bite-size biscuit offers a burst of cinnamon sugar. And don’t be turned off by the use of lard. It adds flavor, crunchiness and is crucial to authentic bizcochitos.
And for you in colder climes like Colorado, Maine and Cape Cod, you get even with us next summer with your perfect days and nights. Oh, and did I mention?…All of us broiling in the heat down South, all 100 million of us, will be visiting. See you then!
- 3 cups (450 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 teaspoons anise seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 pound (226 g) lard, softened (You MUST use lard for authentic[i] bizcochitos[/i])
- 1/2 cup (100 g) plus 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 Tablespoons rum or bourbon
- grated zest of 1 orange
- 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350º F (175º C)
- In a large bowl, sift the flour and baking powder. Add anise seeds and stir to combine.
- Beat the lard in the bowl of an electric mixer, gradually adding the sugar. Cream until extremely fluffy and light, about 8 minutes.
- Add the egg, followed by the bourbon and orange zest, and continue beating just until mixed.
- Slowly add the dry ingredients, beating no longer than necessary to combine. (You are seeking a stiff, pie-crust type dough.)
- Chill the dough for about 15 minutes for easier handling.
- On a floured surface, roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out with a small cookie cutter (no larger than 2 inches in diameter).
- Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and cook for 15-20 minutes until the cookies are just set, pale golden, but not yet browned.
- While the cookies are baking, stir together the topping ingredients.
- When the cookies come out of the oven, let them cool for just a minute or two on the baking sheet, then gently dunk the top of each in the cinnamon-sugar topping. Lift, then repeat the dunking to ensure a thick sugary coating.
- Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool. The [i]bizcochitos[/i] will keep in air-tight container for at least a week.