Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Holiday Cookie Swap: Baking up Biscochitos with Cleo!

Marc and I hope you have all recovered from Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday! With Christmas less than a month away, I’m feeling that jingle bell spirit—thanks in part to playing my Vince Guaraldi A Charlie Brown Christmas album 24/7...

🎶 🎶 🎄 🎶 🎶

If you have a favorite Christmas album (or playlist), by all means, put it on, fire up the oven, and get ready for some cozy cookie baking...

Cleo Coyle has a partner in
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here and here.

A Note from Cleo

Biscochitos (aka bizcochitos) are tender shortbread cookies irresistibly flavored with anise and cinnamon. They were originally developed by Spanish settlers in the New Mexico Territory and are traditionally served at weddings, birthdays, and religious holidays, including Christmas, but they're also enjoyed with coffee or milk in the morning and after dinner with wine or again (you guessed it) coffee! 

This recipe puts my own spin on it, based on the fictional background of Clare Cosi, the amateur sleuth in our bestselling Coffeehouse Mystery series. Happy Holidays, everyone. May you... Eat with joy to the world!
☕ ~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries


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document that you can print,
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Baking Up Biscochitos!

Readers of our Coffeehouse Mysteries may remember these cookies from a scene in our 12th Coffeehouse Mystery Holiday Buzz, where our amateur sleuth caters a series of glittering holiday parties--and tracks down clues to a murder that occurred after one of them. 

For this recipe, I tried to image how Clare Cosi might have adapted this traditional recipe. First, I assumed that she would make her biscochitos using a combination of butter and vegetable shortening instead of the traditional lard. Then I assumed she'd use Italian Marsala for the sweet wine; and finally, Clare would have replaced the anise seeds, which can be bitter, with anise extract, something her nonna would have used in Italian cookies like pizzelle and biscotti. For the shape, I’m sure Clare would have chosen a cookie cutter that reminded her of a golden Southwestern sun. And that's how I arrived at the recipe you see in this post. May you bake with love and eat with joy to the world! ~ Cleo

☕ Cleo's Biscochitos

Makes about 6 dozen cookies of 2-inches in diameter, rolled slightly under ¼-inch in thickness (these cookies are sometimes rolled thicker; just note that they will make less)


For dough:

½ cup vegetable shortening
½ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg, lightly beaten with fork
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon anise extract (increase to ¾ teaspoon for stronger anise flavor)
¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract
¼ cup Marsala (or brandy or port or wine)*

For cinnamon-sugar finish: 

¼ cup sugar + 1 teaspoon cinnamon

*NOTE: If you do not wish to use alcohol, substitute milk or water. 

Step 1 – Make the dough: Cream the shortening, butter, sugar, and pinch of salt until fluffy. Blend in the egg, vanilla, anise and vanilla extracts. Mix in the flour (dough will be very dry and crumbly). Add the ¼ cup Marsala (brandy, port, or wine) and mix only until the dough comes together.

NOTE: Adding too much liquid at this point will toughen your cookies. If your climate is very dry and the dough is truly too dry and crumbly and needs more liquid, then add Marsala (brandy, port, or wine) in very small increments—no more than one teaspoon at a time—until the dough comes together.

Step 2 – Chill: Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least thirty minutes, or up to six hours (but no more for best results).

Step 3 – Roll, Cut, Sprinkle, and Bake: Preheat your oven to 350° F. If the dough is chilled to the point of hardness, allow it to warm. Roll the dough out (for best results, see my tips below) and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Mix the cinnamon sugar in a bowl and generously sprinkle the cookie tops. Bake for about 10 to 13 minutes. These cookies freeze beautifully. See my notes about storage below...

* * *
CLEO'S TIPS ON ROLLING DOUGH: For best results, use little or no flour. Simply roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment paper. This is a much better method of working with dough (and preventing sticking) than using flour. Adding flour toughens cookie dough while this method keeps it tender.

Once the dough is rolled out, slide it (parchment paper and all) onto the baking sheet and slip the pan into the refrigerator until cold. This will make the dough easier to cut. Remove top layer of parchment paper, stamp out cookies...

Remove excess dough between the cutouts. (I use a knife tip for this.) Add scraps to remaining dough to be rolled again. Sprinkle unbaked cookies with cinnamon sugar, place pan into oven, and follow baking directions in Step 3.


Final note: These cookies freeze very well. Stack them into a wax paper-lined plastic container first. No defrosting needed, especially if you're dunking them into a cup of tea or (even better)…coffee.

Eat (and read) with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries 

Alice and Marc in Central Park. 
Together we write as Cleo Coyle. 

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Holiday BuzzA Coffeehouse 
Holiday Mystery!

To buy now, click links for... 

With Recipes for
Holiday Cookies and
Festive food and drinks...

To learn more about
the book, click here

☕  ☕  ☕



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Our newest Coffeehouse Mystery is
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Top 10 Best Mysteries
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A "Most Wanted"
Mystery Guild Selection

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This culinary mystery includes
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The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
16 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 


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