Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

These Cookies Are Official ; Only Two States Have Official State Cookies. Do You Know What They Are?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

These Cookies Are Official ; Only Two States Have Official State Cookies. Do You Know What They Are?

Article excerpt

Almost every state has an official bird, flag, flower, and motto. But not every state has an official cookie. Only New Mexico and Massachusetts do.

New Mexico has bizcochito (pronounced bis-co-CHEE-toe). It's a shortbread cookie flavored with a spice called anise and topped with cinnamon sugar.

Massachusetts' state cookie is a chocolate chip or Toll House cookie.

When you bite into a bizcochito, you taste hundreds of years of history that began when the Spanish reached the New World in 1492. The Spanish explorers brought wheat flour, which was unknown in the Americas.

The word bizcochito comes from the Spanish word bizcocho, which means "biscuit." Bizcochito means "little biscuit."

The earliest versions were not sweet. They were hard biscuits that softened when dunked in coffee or tea. Properly stored, they lasted more than a year.

When explorers and settlers in New Mexico began to trade with the Comanche Indians, they would offer the biscuits as barter.

The Catholic Church also established missions in the region, beginning in the 1500s. Priests were probably some of the first people to introduce the anise seeds that give the cookie its distinctive flavor.

Bizcochitos were made to celebrate the defeat of the French by the Mexican Army at Puebla in 1862, says Jane Butel, author of numerous cookbooks on Southwestern cooking and owner of the Jane Butel Cooking School in Albuquerque, N.M. Today, that event is celebrated as Cinco de Mayo.

"Mexican women made these cookies to honor their soldiers," she says. "They were made in the shape of a fleur-de-lis, the symbol of France, from cookie cutters made out of tin cans. The women supposedly said 'stamp them out,' referring to the French, as they cut out each one."

By the 1850s, New Mexico was no longer part of Mexico. It belonged to the United States. But strong cultural ties remained. The bizcochito traveled north from Mexico. "There was a lot of back and forth between the two areas," says Ms. Butel. "The cookie became popular because it was celebratory, and it was practical. It was easy to make, inexpensive, and used ingredients found at home."

Lard made from animal fat is not often used in baking anymore. But it is still commonly listed as an ingredient in bizcochito recipes. Many bakers will tell you that without lard, the cookies are not as delicious or flaky. "We try to insist on lard," says Nicole Ammerman, an instructor at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. "Without it, you don't have a true bizcochito."

Bizcochitos are a great alternative to traditional rolled sugar cookies, according to Ms. Ammerman. Unlike sugar cookies, bizcochito dough does not need to be refrigerated before it can be cut into shapes.

Bizcochito recipes are often handed down in families. This has produced almost as many recipes as there are bakers. Some cooks use egg yolks instead of whole eggs. Some use apple juice, grape juice, or other liquids instead of water. Whatever the recipe, no holiday celebration in New Mexico is complete without bizcochitos.

Although bizcochitos are largely unknown outside the Southwest, the chocolate chip cookie is one of the most popular cookies all across the US.

Almost half of all cookies baked at home are chocolate chip. "They're comfort food," says Barb Randall, a food writer and cooking instructor in Lake Oswego, Ore. "They're a nice, quick, and easy cookie to make - and, of course, most people love chocolate."

More than 100 million bags of chocolate chips are sold each year. That's enough to make more than 5 billion cookies. Because chocolate chip cookies are so popular, it may be hard to believe they've been around only since the 1930s.

It may be even harder to believe that chocolate chip cookies were invented by accident.

As the story goes, Ruth Graves Wakefield and her husband, Kenneth, bought a restaurant in Whitman, Mass. …

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