Arts & Entertainment

Congressman McNerney defends bachelor cooking with bizcochitos

Bizcochitos, butter cookies made with anise seed, are traditional Christmas fare in the Southwest.
Bizcochitos, butter cookies made with anise seed, are traditional Christmas fare in the Southwest.
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Most members of Congress leave their families back home in the district when they’re working on Capitol Hill, and at least one dreams of his wife’s home cooking. It’s the baking that wins Jerry McNerney’s heart.

East Bay Democrat Jerry McNerney says he can cook, but not like his wife.

"I can hold my own," he says, "but not against her. When she’s cooking, I have to watch out, you have to get out of the way. When I’m here, I 'bach' it. I go into the Longworth cafeteria for most things. But I can manage if I have to."

Congressman McNerney says his wife knows her way around flour and sugar.

"She bakes really good stuff and I eat a lot of it." That good stuff includes corn bread, red velvet cake, and during the holidays, bizcochitos. "Which are little anise cookies," he says.

McNerney says his wife shares recipes with people who are “really important” to them.

Somehow we lucked out.

Congressman Jerry McNerney's Bizcochitos

"My family's special recipe for these delicious Southwestern cookies that are traditionally served over the holidays. They are wonderful with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate. My mother would bake hundreds for family and friends."

Preheat oven to 350*.

6 cups sifted flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
1 cup lard (can substitute butter, or additional shortening)
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons anise seed, to taste ... (also additional ground anise, if desired).
2 eggs, beaten until light and fluffy
1/4 cup of white wine
additional 1/4 cup sugar and 1 Tablespoon cinnamon for rolling baked cookies.

1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

2. In a separate mixing bowl...cream the shortening, lard, sugar, and anise seed using an electric mixer. Add the beaten eggs to the creamed mixture. Mix in the flour mixture and then the white wine until well blended. Use only enough white wine to make a stiff dough (dough should resemble masa in consistency. Adding too much liquid will make the cookies hard.)

3. Knead slightly by hand and roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters. (The fleur de lis shape is traditional for these cookies). Place on lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350* for 10 minutes, or until very lightly browned

4. While cookies are still hot, roll them in the sugar and cinnamon mixture.