Traditional New Mexican Biscochitos

Norma Gail, fellow author and friend, returns to Historical Nibbles to share a delicious cookie recipe from her upcoming release. Welcome back, Norma!

Biscochitos or biscochitos in Northern New Mexico Spanish, means “little cakes” or “bizcochos”. They are the official state cookie, and one of the favorites of Bonny MacDonell, the heroine in my novels, Land of My Dreams and the newest, Within Golden Bands, releasing on May 19th. At one point, she escapes the constraints of her new husband’s Scottish sheep farm, under attack from a mysterious stalker, and flees to a spot overlooking the islands at the east end of Loch Garry. Her lunch consists of a sandwich with turkey and green chili and biscochitos.

Simple to make, the cookies consist mainly of shortening and flour, flavored with anise and a little brandy, and generously coated in a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Known as far back as the culture of Santa Fé de Nuevo México in the 1500’s, they were traditionally shaped like a fleur-de-lis, though round is more frequent today. They probably originated in Spain or Mexico. A Christmas favorite, they are also seen at weddings, baptisms, and other celebrations, and are delicious with hot chocolate.

Here’s my favorite recipe:

2 cups lard or vegetable shortening

¼ tsp salt

3 tsp baking powder

6 cups flour

2 tsp anise seeds

2 eggs

¼ cup brandy or sweet wine

¼ cup sugar

1 tbsp cinnamon

Sift flour. Cream lard with sugar, anise seeds, baking powder, and salt until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add brandy. Mix in flour gradually, stopping when dough reaches the right consistency for rolling. Turn out on a floured surface and roll to ¼ – ½ inch thick. Cut into shapes. Dust liberally with cinnamon/sugar mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.

-Norma Gail

About Norma Gail:

Norma Gail’s debut novel, Land of My Dreams, won the 2016 Bookvana Religious Fiction Award. Within Golden Bands releases May 19th. A women’s Bible study leader for over 21 years, her devotionals have appeared in several publications. She lives in New Mexico with her husband of 44 years.


Book Blurb for Within Golden Bands:

Newlyweds Bonny and Kieran MacDonell grieve the loss of her miracle pregnancy while struggling to discover the identity of the man who left Kieran beaten and unconscious. Reeling from the threat to her husband and loss of their child, Bonny fights to hold her marriage together as danger destroys the peace of their sheep farm on the banks of Loch Garry, Scotland. Will they choose to trust God when his ways are impossible to fathom?

Buy Link:  Amazon



Apple Meringue Pie Recipe from 1877

While searching for a dessert to make for a family gathering, I ran across a recipe for apple meringue pie in my 1877 cookbook. Intrigued by a dessert I’d never heard of, I decided to try it.

The recipe calls for tart apples so I used Granny Smith. For apple pies that I’ve made in the past, three large apples made one pie. Since these apples would be “stewed” before going into the pie shell, I used twice that amount. This made enough filling for a large 9” pie.

Peel and slice the apples. Place them in a large saucepan and add water but don’t cover the apples. Cook over a medium heat until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. The aroma took me back to childhood memories of my grandmother’s cooking.

Remove from heat. Drain excess water. Mash the cooked apples. Add a teaspoon of nutmeg. After tasting the mixture with a spoon, I felt it needed a teaspoon of cinnamon so I added that. It gave the apples a nice flavor.

Hint: To prevent fruit juices from soaking into the pie crust, beat an egg and lightly brush a little onto the unbaked shell. 1877 cooks dipped a cloth into the egg mixture, but I used a pastry brush.

Poor the apple mixture into a prepared unbaked pie crust and bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes or until the shell is done and the apples are set.

For the meringue: Beat 3 egg whites, 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, and ½ teaspoon vanilla until “it will stand alone.”

Allow the baked pie to cool about ten minutes then cover the pie with the meringue. Increase the oven temperature to 400 and return the pie to the oven just until the meringue is lightly browned. This may take five minutes but keep watching so as not to burn it.

Refrigerate after the pie cools and serve cold.

None of my guests had heard of an apple meringue pie. The novelty and the taste appealed to everyone. The dessert took me back to my grandmother’s cooking. I liked it. I had always used sugar as opposed to powdered sugar for meringues and was a little nervous about how it would work. The powdered sugar took a little longer to whip but tasted good.

The cook advises that peaches can be substituted for apples when in season. That sounds really delicious so I plan to make it with peaches.

I’d love to hear if you try it.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.



Oh, Honey, Those are Preacher Cookies

Today’s post is by fellow author, Nan Jones.  Welcome to Historical Nibbles, Nan, and thanks for sharing this recipe. I love to find quick, no-bake cookie recipes!

The fellowship hall smelled divine. Fried chicken, squash casserole, fresh green beans, and homemade biscuits were just a few of the delectable treats offered at the homecoming potluck dinner at church. The dessert table overflowed with temptation that I couldn’t wait to succumb to.

Just left of center on the long dessert table was a platter of chocolate cookies — the likes of which I had never seen. “Miss Ina Mae, what are these?” I asked. We were the new pastor and wife at this small Baptist church in the mountains of western North Carolina.

“Oh, honey, those are preacher cookies.”

Preacher cookies? I had never heard of them before that day. But for the past twenty-five years, every church pot-luck dinner has offered a platter full of these delicious nibbles.

Curious about the history, I discovered that these simple no-bake cookies derived their name from real life. Legend has it that Preacher Cookies got their name many years ago when it was common for preachers to visit their church members often. Housewives in the mountains could look out and see the preacher riding on his horse toward her home from a good distance away. Because of the simplicity of the recipe and common household ingredients, she could have the cookies prepared by the time he got to the house. Served up with a fresh cup of coffee, the preacher man received a special blessing.

Recipe for Preacher Cookies

½ cup butter

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

2 cups sugar

½ cup milk

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 cups quick cooking oatmeal

¼ cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the cocoa powder, butter, sugar, milk, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add the peanut butter, vanilla, and oatmeal. Stir well. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper and allow to cool.

-Nan Jones

About Nan Jones:

Nan Jones is an author/speaker who uses the words of her heart to assist fellow Christians in discovering the Presence of God in their darkest hour. Her book, The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife was a 2016 Selah finalist and her blog, Beyond the Veil, won first place in the Foundation Awards at the 2017 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Nan is also a monthly contributor to Inspire a Fire, a far-reaching inspirational blog. When Nan isn’t writing, she enjoys leading prayer retreats, teaching bible studies or sharing God’s faithfulness as keynote speaker for special events. You may visit Nan at her website or her Facebook ministry page. For personal communication you may email Nan.

The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife Blurb

Have you been hurt by the church? Have you felt abandoned by God in the lonely fires of ministry? The Perils of A Pastor’s Wife will speak to your deepest wounds and help you find God’s Presence through it all. Sweet Sister—somewhere, somehow, somebody knows. You are not alone.

The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife is available on Amazon and LPC Books. 

Baking Contests and Snickerdoodles

Today’s post was written by fellow author, Kathleen Rouser. She is providing the Snickerdoodle recipe from her novel, Secrets and Wishes. Welcome to Historical Nibbles, Kathleen!

Increasing the vanilla in her favorite snickerdoodle recipe while adding toasted chopped pecans to the dough and the cinnamon sugar made for the delightful crunch and a nutty taste, which had won her second place in the recipe contest. (From Maggie’s musings in Secrets and Wishes.)

There’s nothing more all-American than baking competitions. So many old-fashioned books and movies portray a baking contest at a county fair or a church picnic. The real-life Pillsbury Bake-Off began in 1949. Cookbook collections for charity go back farther than that. I was also inspired by the mention of a story contest sponsored by the fictional Rollings Reliable Baking Powder in the Anne of Green Gables book series by Lucy M. Montgomery.

So why not combine some great traditions to come up with the Silver Leaf Flour Company’s “Don’t Rest on Your Laurels” baking contest in 1901? Maggie Galloway wins second-place for her pecan snickerdoodles, earning her a pin to be presented by the Midwest Regional Director, Giles Prescott and her original recipe would be published in their national cookbook. Maggie seems born to bake.

Just the name ‘snickerdoodles’ is fun! It conjures up images of sitting by a warm oven while scents of cinnamon sugar waft through the air in a cozy kitchen. Some of the earliest documented mentions of snickerdoodles were found in cookbooks from late 1800s.

There’s some debate as to where the name ‘snickerdoodle’ originated. Some think that it’s derived from a Dutch or German word meaning ‘snail-shaped’ while others believe the name came from New England where it’s inhabitants liked whimsical names for cookies. Either way, Maggie is quite sure God gave her the spark of creativity to add vanilla and nuts to a beloved treat enabling her to place in the contest.

Maggie Galloway’s Pecan Snickerdoodles

½ cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 ¼ cup flour

½ cup chopped toasted pecans

Cinnamon sugar mixture:

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon finely chopped toasted pecans

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and lightly grease cookie sheet.

Beat butter until creamy. Add 1 cup sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar, mixing well.

Beat egg and vanilla into the mixture. Slowly add flour and chopped pecans to the mixture.

Set dough in the refrigerator (or the icebox in Maggie’s day) for at least a half an hour to make it easier to handle.

While you’re waiting, mix the cinnamon sugar ingredients together with the 1 tablespoon finely chopped pecans.

When the dough is ready, roll into small balls and roll in cinnamon sugar/nut mixture.

Place a couple of inches apart on the cookie sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes, only until slightly golden brown along the edges. Yield is approximately two dozen cookies.

-Kathleen Rouser

About Secrets and Wishes:

More than fists fly after a fight between Philip and Zeke. When their widowed parents, Maggie Galloway and Thomas Harper meet, they begin a prickly acquaintance. Independent Maggie has placed in a national baking contest and wants to open a bakery to provide a future for her and Philip. Grieving and disorganized Thomas seeks to bring up his unruly brood in Stone Creek, and grow his pharmacy business in peace. After he becomes gravely ill, Maggie is enlisted to nurse him back to health, and takes his children in hand. She eventually helps Thomas organize his shop. As friendship blossoms so does love. They team up to defeat a charlatan who’s dangerous elixir brings tragedy to Stone Creek. Humiliating circumstances, brought about by the former beau who brings Maggie’s baking prize from the flour company, force Maggie to consider leaving town. Thomas wants to offer her an alternative, but is he too late to declare his love to the angel of mercy who has captured his heart?

Where to find Secrets and Wishes on Amazon:


Kathleen Rouser is the award-winning author of Rumors and Promises, her first novel about the people of fictional Stone Creek, Michigan, and the novella, The Pocket Watch. She is a longtime member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Kathleen has loved making up stories since she was a little girl and wanted to be a writer before she could even read. She longs to create characters who resonate with readers and realize the need for a transforming Savior in their everyday lives. She lives in Michigan with her hero and husband of nearly 36 years, and the sassy tail-less cat who found a home in their empty nest. Connect with Kathleen on her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter @KathleenRouser.

Apple Pie Recipe Without Apples used by Confederate Soldiers


Recipes used to be called ‘receipts.’ Confederate soldiers were often low on supplies and had to make do with ingredients found nearby.

I found an intriguing recipe called “Apple Pie Without Apples” in an 1863 book, Confederate Receipt Book. I had to make this one.

The main ingredient is crackers. Civil War soldiers ate hard tack, which John D. Billings describes in his book, Hard Tack and Coffee, as “a plain flour-and-water biscuit.”

Billings, a Civil War soldier, had two of these crackers while writing his book that published in 1887. (It doesn’t say if the hard tack was baked during the war.) When measured, he found they were 3 1/8 inches by 2 7/8 inches and almost ½ inch thick.

This apple pie recipe uses crackers. The soldiers would have used hard tack because that was available.

blog-127Place crackers in a small bowl. (Not having hard tack on hand, I thought Triscuits might be an acceptable substitute.  I used 20 of these crackers. Regular crackers would also be fine.) Soak these in water until soft. For our modern crackers, this takes about five minutes. I can’t imagine how long soldiers soaked the hard tack.

Empty excess water. Mash the softened crackers.

Add 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, ¼ cup sugar, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and ½ teaspoon nutmeg to the crackers. Mix together.

Spray ramekins with cooking spray. Spoon mixture into ramekins until about 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

My husband tried it first. “It’s strange. It doesn’t taste like apple pie.”

I had to agree. This recipe does not taste like apple pie. I didn’t really care for it.

Soldiers probably didn’t have cinnamon too often in camp but this spice would definitely enhance the flavor. In the next batch I added a teaspoon of cinnamon along with the nutmeg.

Both my husband and I agreed that cinnamon improved the “appleless” pie. Though it was a strange and unfamiliar dessert, I’m happy I tried it. It would make a fun dish at Civil War reenactments.

For the Confederate soldier starving for his mother’s apple pie, eating this dessert probably gave him a nostalgic taste of home.

-Sandra Merville Hart


A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Confederate Receipt Book, Applewood Books, 1863.

Billings, John D. Hardtack & Coffee, University of Nebraska Press, 1993.


Old-Fashioned Stack Cake Recipe


My grandmother made stack cakes every year at Christmas when I was little. She was an excellent cook and baker but wasn’t blessed with enough patience to teach her daughters and granddaughters how to make them.

She never measured anything. Cakes, biscuits, and pies were all made by sight and touch. She held salt in her hand to know how much to add. She rarely guessed wrong.

Unfortunately, she shooed us from the kitchen if we asked too many questions about how to make something. We tried to observe quietly but it was difficult to learn how to cook that way.

When she died, I feared that her wonderful recipe was gone forever. I tried to make it from memory and came fairly close on the apple filling but not the cake layers. I remembered them being thin, like a big soft cookie.

Both my sister and I found the recipe while visiting the Smokies.

blog-015For the apple filling between layers:

Arrange a pound of dried tart apples in a large kettle. Cover the apples with boiling water to soften. This make take a few hours or allow to sit overnight. I drained this water but I’m not sure it’s necessary.

Add enough water to almost cover the apples and cook over medium low heat about an hour or until tender. Drain almost all the water from the cooked apples and then mash. I kept about a cup of water in the pot with the fruit.

blog-018Add a cup of brown sugar, ¾ cup sugar, 3 teaspoons cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground cloves, ½ teaspoon allspice, and stir well.

To make six cake layers:

Sift 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour into a medium bowl. Add a cup of sugar, 4 teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix together.

Beat two eggs in separate bowl and add to flour mixture. Then add a ½ cup soft butter, a cup of buttermilk, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla.

Mix into a soft dough and divide it into 6 parts. Spread about a ¼ cup of flour over a surface to roll out each layer. (The layers are so thin that I rolled it to about half the size needed, placed the dough into a cake pan prepared with cooking spray, and used my fingers to pat it to the sides.)

blog-029The instructions suggested baking in a 450-degree oven but I baked at 425 until lightly brown, about 11 to 12 minutes.

Spread each layer with the apple filling except the top layer. Cover and store at least half a day before serving.

My grandmother wrapped her cake in plastic wrap. Then she covered them with towels and stored them in a cool place about two days before slicing. I did the same in her honor.

blog-032My guests enjoyed the cake. It felt good to carry on my grandmother’s tradition.

-Sandra Merville Hart


The Tates. Hillbilly Cookin, C & F Sales, Inc., 1968.


Salem Election Cake


I ran across two recipes for Election Cakes in an 1877 cookbook. Both boasted that the recipes were over 100 years old. A recipe from the Revolutionary War era–what a fun discovery!

Election Day was a festive occasion as early as 1771. Pioneers celebrated the day with parades, balls, religious ceremonies, and food.

Some traveled far to vote. While folks awaited election results, they socialized. The best bakers loved to demonstrate their skills by participating in banquets. Ladies served huge Election Cakes with coffee and cider.

To get an idea of the quantity provided, one recipe called for thirty quarts of flour and fourteen pounds of sugar! Meant to feed a crowd, these cakes originally were a variation of fruitcake and bread.

My cookbook contained two different recipes for these cakes: Salem Election Cake and Old Hartford Election Cake. Wine, brandy, citron, and raisins were a few of the ingredients in the Hartford cake. The Salem recipe looked deceptively simpler so I tried to make this.

img_2414The original recipe, a simple listing of ingredients without instruction, calls for four pounds of flour—far too much for my needs so I cut that down to two cups.

It also called for a pint of yeast. The Hartford recipe gave measurements for distillery yeast; cooks had to use twice as much of home-brewed yeast. I ended up using far too much for the amount of dough.

My first attempt failed. The second try went better, but the cake failed to rise.

img_2417Then I found a recipe for sponge using our modern yeast on What’s Cooking In America. To ¾ cup warm water, two teaspoons of active dry yeast were added. After stirring, I added ¾ cup all-purpose flour and 1 tablespoon of sugar. This mixture was beaten for 2 minutes. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place. It was bubbling in about 30 minutes.

While waiting for the sponge, ¾ cup of sugar was creamed with 4 tablespoons of butter. Two beaten eggs were mixed into the creamed sugar.

The original recipe simply calls for “spice.” This leaves the spices and measurements to the imagination.

In a separate bowl, I combined 2 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground cloves, ½ teaspoon ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt.

Though the cake is described as a fruitcake, there is no mention of adding fruit.

After the sponge reached the bubbling stage, I added it to sugar mixture and stirred it together. Then the dry ingredients were stirred in a little at a time.

img_2420Place the cake into a pan before the final rise. I used a 13×9 pan. This looked way too large but the cake rises. It was covered with plastic wrap and set on a warm stovetop for three hours. The dough had doubled in size.

The cake baked in a 350-degree oven for twenty minutes. I liked the texture but it wasn’t spicy enough. Plums, raisins, and currants—well floured—were a few of the fruits in some early recipes. Adding one of these may be enough make a more flavorful cake.

Since this is cake/bread, no frosting was suggested in my cookbook. The addition of fruit might be enough.

Election Cakes seem to have gone the way of Election Day parades and balls. The recipe began disappearing from cookbooks around the 1940s.

Enjoy! I’d love to hear if you try this recipe.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.

“Election Day Cake and History,” What’s Cooking in America, 2016/10/09

“Salem Dames, Election Cake, and More!” Salem Food Tours, 2016/10/09

“When Elections were a Piece of Cake,”, 2016/10/11

One-Two-Three-Four Pudding


I came across a fun recipe while leafing through an 1877 cookbook for One-Two-Three-Four Pudding. The title intrigued me enough to try it. I’m glad I did.

Mrs. C.A. Malin’s recipe calls for one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, and four eggs. I’m guessing this combination gave the pudding its unique name.

Cream the sugar and butter together. Beat four eggs in a separate bowl then add to sugar and butter. Add one cup of milk and stir until blended.

spices-834114_960_720Combine flour (I used all-purpose flour) with two teaspoons of baking powder. Stir in one teaspoon of nutmeg, the stir into the wet mixture. It will be a thicker consistency than cake batter.

The recipe just said to bake the pudding in a cake or pudding mold. I baked mine in an 8×8 cake pan at 375 degrees until it was lightly browned, about thirty minutes.

Leave the baked pudding in the pan or mold until the next day. Then steam it over a kettle of boiling water for forty-five minutes. I had never done this before, but the pudding turned out very moist.

Mrs. Malin also suggest topping the pudding with hot sauce. I don’t think she meant something with jalapenos!

Another recipe had a suggestion for pudding sauce. I creamed together 4 tablespoons of butter and ½ cup of sugar. Then the baker could choose between adding nutmeg, vanilla extract, or lemon. I chose lemon.

img_2361I added the zest and juice of one lemon. (Next time I will cut the juice to ½ a lemon because it was a strong lemony flavor.) I creamed all this together and heated it in a kettle, stirring constantly. The warm sauce was then poured over individual servings.

I loved it, but the lemony sauce hid the nutmeg flavor of the pudding. When I ate the pudding with no sauce, the pleasant nutmeg made this a yummy dessert for me. I didn’t add any cinnamon to the pudding and didn’t think it needed it.

I’d love to hear if you try this recipe!

-Sandra Merville Hart



Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.