Well, finals are in full swing, and it’s recently been a mess of snow/sleet/rain all mashed together here in Portland. Everything I own seems to be slightly damp, and I’m not sure I remember what the sun looks like. The good news is, I’m far enough along on the final paper I’m working on to squeeze in an hour in the kitchen, and I just remembered that this week (Dec. 12th) is the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. I knew nothing about Guadalupe until I lived in New Mexico, but the old church bearing her name in Santa Fe became one of my favorite stopping places on my evening walks as there are always candles burning at a small shrine. Often I would sit there to pray or meditate or light my own candle. It felt like a place full of peace, kindness and compassion.
On the eve of Guadalupe’s feast day, which also happens to be my mother’s birthday, there is a wonderful procession through the Plaza, followed by services and food at the church. Here in this rain drenched city, I am thinking tonight about my old, beloved nightly walks in the crisp high desert air with snow on the mountains and farolitos atop adobe walls. Biscochitos are the state cookie of New Mexico, and absolutely everyone makes them at Christmas time. I created this gluten-free version that I now make every year. The combination of flours is healthful, and I prefer it to pre-made gluten-free blends, which contain a lot of starch. My cookies have extra anise, a lovely, warming spice that is excellent for digestion — and a bit of orange peel (possibly constituting sacrilege to traditionalists)! These are not too sweet and will keep well in a tin. They are just perfect with a cup of tea, when the holiday rush gets overwhelming. Light your own candle, and remember what this season is really about. When running around, doing a lot for others, don’t forget to have compassion for yourself.
- 1 1/2 cups almond flour
- 1 cup sorghum flour
- 1 cup brown rice flour
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot or corn starch
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar and a drop or two of liquid stevia to taste (or plain old sugar if you’d rather!)
- 1 cup butter (or lard, which is traditional)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup sherry or orange juice
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon anise seeds
- 1 tablespoon grated orange or lemon zest
- few tablespoons of cinnamon & sugar, mixed together j
Cream the butter with sugar, then beat in eggs, vanilla, sherry or oj, and zest. Grind anise seeds in a coffee grinder and add with flours and salt. Form the dough into a ball and chill in the fridge for at least an hour, wrapped in plastic. This dough will roll well, but only if it’s well-chilled — don’t skimp on this step or you’ll have a mess on your hands. Roll out between sheets of wax paper, and cut with cookie cutters. Re-chill the dough as needed or add a touch more flour — but the more flour you add, the less tender the cookies will be! I work fast with this dough, and it’s fine. But if you’re not an experienced maker of cut-out cookies, this isn’t the recipe to start with! These are just as good if you roll into balls and flatten with your hand. Top each cookie with a shake of cinnamon sugar, and bake at 325 degrees for about ten minutes or until edges are just barely starting to brown.
I’m sending love today to my dear friend in New Mexico, who just lost her mother, and also thinking of my own mama today, wherever her spirit may be. She adored this season, and I am happy that I will always remember her birthday by making these cookies and celebrating the loving presence of the divine Mother on this special, holy feast day.