Tag Archives: Cookies

My Quinceañera Cookie Exchange Party!

Can you smell the sugar?

Can you smell the sugar?

Now that Day of the Dead is over, I like to begin planning my annual cookie exchange party!  Last December was my 15th year to have a cookie swap and I always like to work with a theme.  Last year, since it was my 15th year, it made perfect sense to celebrate it as my Quinceañera!  (More on what this means in a moment!)

Every year my invitations go out at the beginning of December.  Everyone brings 12 dozen of their ONE favorite cookie and they leave with 12 dozen DIFFERENT cookies!  I always have margaritas, taquitos, and other snacks and my mother brings her homemade salsa!  I shared her recipe for this salsa last year in a blog post – check it out!  It’s delicious!

It’s always funny when someone new comes to the party.  When I say bring 12 dozen of one cookie – they usually contact me to make sure they read the invitation correctly!  So I’ve started putting on the invite – “yes, you read that right!  12 dozen of one cookie!”  Anyway…

I always make two cookies or 288 cookies total! Last year I made my usual Mexican wedding cakes and the traditional Mexican biscochitos!

I always make two cookies or 288 cookies total! Last year I made my usual Mexican wedding cakes and the traditional Mexican biscochitos!

Every year I like to have a theme for my party and a special party favor.  One year we were The Real Housewives of Birmingham and I made aprons for everyone with the Real Housewives logo!  Another year, we had tacky Christmas sweaters and I had plenty of extra sweaters for those who forgot to wear one!!!  Another year, I everyone wore their favorite Christmas pins and I gave everyone a Christmas pin as they left.  It’s sometimes a challenge to come up with something new but I love a challenge!!!

So the Quince was a fun theme to work with. As a little background…a quinceañera is a coming of age celebration for a young Latina girl.  It’s like a sweet 16 party but there are several special traditions that take place for a “quince.”  Traditions also differ for many of the Latin American countries.  For instance, in Mexico a young girl might have her Quince following a religious Catholic mass.  A young girls’ godparents will typically give her a rosary, a necklace or bracelet with the image of Mexico’s patron saint, the Virgen de Guadalupe.  She is also given a tiara as a gesture of love from her immediate family and can be interpreted as being a princess before God and the world.  The young girl also typically leaves a bouquet of flowers on the altar for the Virgin Mary.

Cross bracelets for all my guests! They also got crowns!

Cross bracelets for all my guests! They also got crowns!

Borrowing from a few of these traditions, I found some beautiful bracelets with crosses that I used as party favors.  I decorated a small gold tree with these bracelets and everyone got to choose the one that most suited their taste and personality.  I also provided everyone with small crowns to wear for the party.  Honestly, I think everyone was most excited about the crowns!!!  My friends were helping one another by teasing up their hair so the comb attached to the crowns would stay in place.  It was comical and fun and I even pulled out a can of hairspray to help out with all this!  My dog, Lucy also wore a crown – and I seriously don’t know how it stayed on her head but she looked cute and fit right in with everyone else!

Me and Lucy wearing our crowns!

Me and Lucy wearing our crowns!

Now back to the cookie swap…

All the cookies are placed on my dining room table in their original containers.  Remembers, this is 144 of one type of cookie!  The smell of sugar is always overwhelming and the presentation is always beautiful!  I encourage everyone to bring an empty container that will hold 144 cookies but in case they forget, I always provide large boxes for them to use.  Next we all gather in a circle around the table and everyone begins by taking 8 cookies from each type.  We tend to get into a bit of a bottleneck around the table and it becomes quite amusing with some of my more competitive friends who urge those ahead of them to “hurry up!”  Seriously, by the time everyone has gotten around the table, their boxes or containers are quite heavy!  Then everyone goes back to their favorite cookie and takes a few more.  It all works out in the end and everyone leaves with a beautiful assortment to share with family, friends and co-workers over the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The cookie swap begins!

The cookie swap begins!

Ideally you would have 12 friends bring 12 dozen of one cookie for everything to come out evenly.  However, over the years my party has gotten pretty popular by word of mouth and photos on social media that I have people ask if they can join in the fun!  I’m all about the more the merrier so of course, my answer is always yes!

This year will be my Sweet 16!!!  Stay tuned for some fun photos and delicious cookies!

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The Official State Cookie of New Mexico!

Biscochitos - fresh out of the oven and on my dining room table!

Biscochitos – fresh out of the oven and on my dining room table!

Biscochitos!!!  Say this word to any Mexican and they will immediately begin to drool!  I kid you not!

These cookies are some of the best you will ever taste.  They are SO good that the New Mexico legislature named them the official state cookie in 1989!  Of course, the cookies go further back when the Spanish brought the recipe over from Spain to Mexico many moons ago…

My New Mexico Zuniga family makes the best biscochitos ever.  No lie…I always look forward to having a few at our family reunions…that is, if I can get to them in time!  They are in high demand and you really have to grab one when you can or they are gone in a flash!  Both my cousins Nelinda (aka Danda) and Hortencia (aka Wiro) each have their own unique recipes of this delicious cookie.

I’ve been doing a little research into the ingredients and decided to give this one a try for my annual cookie swap party.  I always make Mexican Wedding Cake cookies and one other in case a friend comes to the party and doesn’t have time to make cookies.  This year I decided on biscochitos as my “one other.”

Ingredients for my biscochitos...except for the cloves...I decided not to use those...

Ingredients for my biscochitos…except for the cloves…I decided not to use those…

One of the main ingredients in the recipe is lard.  Yep, LARD!  As my cousin Danda always says…when people see that the recipe takes one pound of lard, they get a little scared of these cookies!  I’ve seen a number of variations to this cookie but substituting lard for anything else is a no-no.  One of my cousins uses cloves in her recipe but I opted not to use this in mine.  One uses brandy in hers while my other cousin does not.  It’s interesting how a recipe can vary.  I decided on using the brandy and I can tell you…wow!!!  What a great flavor!

So let’s get started…

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sift the 6 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into a bowl, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together 2 cups of lard and 1 1/2 cups sugar until smooth. Mix in 1 teaspoon of anise extract (I over poured a bit), and beat until fluffy. Stir in 2 eggs, one at a time. Add the sifted ingredients and 1/4 cup of brandy, and stir until well blended.
  3. Roll dough into balls.
  4. Mix together the 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon; roll the balls in the mixture.
  5. Place cookies onto baking sheets and gently press down on the mixture so they aren’t perfectly round.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the bottoms are lightly browned.

Que bueno!!!  Here are a few photos of the prep work in a slideshow!

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Mexican Wedding Cookies – My Favorite Christmas Cookie!

IMG_8436Every year I have my annual Christmas cookie swap party.  Everyone brings 12 dozen (yes! you read that right!) of their one favorite cookie and you leave with 12 dozen different cookies.  I have the party the first week of December so that everyone can enjoy and share the cookies during the month of December for family gatherings, to use as gifts, or just eat them all themselves!

The cookies I make every year without fail?  The Mexican Wedding cookie!  It is my all time favorite cookie and it was my dad’s favorite cookie as well.  I remember my mother always making these cookies for him and how much he loved them.  He had a sweet tooth for certain things and Mexican Wedding cookies was one of those things!

My mother passed her recipe down to me and I am proud to say I can make them almost as well as she does.  This year I decided to document the process in photos.  They are an easy cookie to make and oh so good!  But as I was making them, I was curious about their origin.  I mean, where did they get their name and why were they also called Russian Tea Cakes?

So I did a little research online and found a great history from Chef Miguel Ravago, co-founder of Fonda San Miguel in Austin, Texas.  I noticed his mother’s recipe, that he shares in the cookbook – Baking From the Heart – includes cinnamon.  My mother’s does not, but it got me interested in trying this at some point.  It reminded me of another favorite Mexican cookie – bizcochitos that I also love and can’t get enough of when I visit my family in New Mexico!  My cousin Nelinda makes a bizcochito to DIE for!

Chef Ravago says the origin of this cookie is Arabic and was taken to Mexico by the Spaniards.  They are called Polvorones de Canela – polvorones meaning “dust” because the cookies are covered in powdered sugar and canela – meaning cinnamon.  He recalled how his mother would always have these cookies baked every week to have after church to enjoy along with a Mexican chocolate drink.  But polvorones are also part of most Mexican weddings – they are gathered into a pyramid at the receptions making a gorgeous white centerpiece and stacked very high so everyone can reach them.   At weddings these cookies are best enjoyed with a glass of  anise liqueur – according to Ravago’s grandfather.

IMG_8842Here is my mother’s recipe:  1 cup butter or margarine; 1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar; 1 tsp. vanilla; 2-1/4 cups of all-purpose flour (do not use self-riding flour); 1/4 tsp. salt, and 3/4 cups finely chopped nuts (I use pecans).  Mix butter, sugar and vanilla thoroughly.  Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting.  Stir flour and salt together; blend in.  mix in nuts.  Chill dough.

You then heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Roll dough in 1 inch balls.  Place on ungreased baking sheet.  Cookies do not spread.  Bake 10-12 minutes, or until set but not brown.  While still warm, roll in confectioners sugar.  Cool.  Roll in sugar again.  This recipe makes about 4 dozen 1 inch cookies.

I still don’t know why these are called Russian Tea Cakes…but they will always be Mexican cookies to me.

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I doubled my recipe so this is really 2 cups of butter!

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Adding in the confectioners sugar…

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Next comes the vanilla…I love the smell of vanilla, don’t you?

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Adding the all purpose flour to the butter, sugar and vanilla mixture.

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The mixing is complete…the temptation to start spooning out this mixture for snacking is great…

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Chopping up the pecans into smaller bits to add to the mixture.

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Adding the pecans to the mix

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Mixture is ready and the confectioner sugar is on standby for the rolling to begin!

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Rolling the mixture into one inch balls to bake for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees.

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Ready to go into the oven!

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Bake at 400 degrees…

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They definitely don’t change much after baking…but they definitely smell terrific!

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The confectioners sugar clings to these warm little nuggets!

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The finished product! Actually, after they cooled a bit, I rolled them again for added sugar high!