Nan's Cookies: A recipe that pays tribute to family heritage

Azanette Bazan started the business in 2020 to help her mom, but the secret ingredients go back decades.

Nan's Cookies: A recipe that pays tribute to family heritage

HOUSTON — Azanett Bazan’s cookies contain some of the stuff you can find on a store shelf, like cinnamon and sugar.

But they also contain secret ingredients you can’t.

“We bake with love and we pray over every batch,” Bazan says.

She started making the cookies in 2020 as a way to help her mother deal with the pandemic.

“The pandemic year, I went to visit my mother and I realized that my mother was very, she was lonely,” says Bazan.

It was then that Bazan got an idea.

“My daughter said, ‘Mom, why don’t you get her to bake the cookies that she makes every year for Christmas,'” Bazan said.

Those cookies are called “Hojarascas,” but some people refer to them as “Pan de Polvo.” They’re especially popular during the holidays or celebrations in Hispanic culture.

“During the holidays, for sure. But they are also very popular like in Hispanic weddings, quincineras, baby showers,” Bazan said.

What started as a hobby to pass the time turned into a viral hit. With the help of her daughter and mother, Bazan began taking and fulfilling orders on social media and they were met with rave reviews.

She appropriately named her business “Nan’s Cookies” – the name the grandkids call her mother.

“We’ve been compared to some pretty popular places, and they said that we definitely match up or exceed.”

But at the heart of her cookies is the story of her family which has seven children, five of whom came to Houston from Mexico with her mom, Tita Ibarra, to meet their dad in 1971.

“My father came to the Houston area, as a baker, he was looking for work,” says Raul Ibarra Jr., Bazan’s older brother.

Raul Ibarra Sr. would wake up in the early hours of the morning, day after day, year after year, to put food on other families’ tables so that he could do the same for his own.

“I remember that sweet scent of the bread,” says Elva Cabrera, Bazan’s older sister.

But his real specialty was closer to home. It was the recipe for Bazan’s cookies that are now over 60 years old.

To make ends meet, he and his wife sold bread and tamales out of their home.

And despite the long hours, he never failed to make the kids’ birthday cakes which were accompanied by the cookies.

“My father worked himself to death. He, he worked, he worked hard. It took care of his family,” says Raul Jr.

He finally had the opportunity to open his own bakery, but in the final stages, it fell through because he didn’t have enough money.

“He, you know, he had to walk away from it. And I remember it. It was heartbreaking,” says Raul Jr.

And now, decades later, his daughter is trying to pick up where he left off, using the very star-shaped cookie cutter that made her dad’s cookies so special.

“I hope I’m making him proud.”

Bazan has her goal of opening her own bakery.

“When they enjoy these cookies, I want everyone to feel like they know him,” says Bazan.

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