Friday, October 7, 2016
Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies
I had very few real plans for the first day of the fall break. I wanted to stay home, catch up on some cleaning, maybe fit in some reading, a little crochet or cross-stitching, if possible. I also wanted to bake cookies. I hadn't baked cookies since summer; cookies require a blank space of a few hours and a lot of room to spread out. I hadn't had any of this lately, so cookies weren't happening. Yesterday, though, cookies were going to happen. I tried a recipe I've had my eye on for months, Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies from Martha Stewart, and oh, boy, am I glad I did! These cookies have the perfect flavor combination - sweet, spicy and richly chocolatey, just like authentic Mexican-style hot chocolate, with a very satisfying crisp-crumbly texture and pretty, crinkly tops.
Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies (my batch made about 4 dozen cookies)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon chile powder (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down side of bowl. Add eggs and beat to combine. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat until combined.
An interjection from me: the recipe calls for chile powder, which is not the same thing as "chili powder," such as you might use in chili con carne or taco meat filling. That kind is typically a prepared mixture of ground chile peppers, garlic, onion, cumin and salt. The kind to use for these cookies is plain ground red chile peppers. Here in New Mexico, this is easy to find. I keep medium-heat red chile powder, shown above, in my pantry, to use in all sorts of savory recipes. I was concerned about the spiciness of my chile powder and originally planned to use half the amount in the recipe, but it was very mild when mixed with the sugar and cinnamon, so I used the full half-teaspoon.
In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon and chile powder (if using). Using heaping tablespoons, form balls of dough and roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place, about 3 inches apart, on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are set in center and begin to crack, about 10 minutes, rotating halfway through.
Let cookies cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. (Store in airtight container, up to 1 week).
These are the most interesting cookies I've made in a long time. I don't take these things lightly - I really love cookies. But these are very different from the types I'm usually drawn to. The flavors are quite complex, spicy without being hot, sweet but not cloyingly so. The heat is mild, a light but noticeable warmth in the back of the throat - even the most spice-averse member of the family enjoyed them. There's an autumnal air about them, and as I suspected, they're even more delicious with a cup of coffee. Why are you still sitting there? Go bake some!