Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mexican Chocolate Cookies

If you've been hanging out in Mexico for any length of time you may have noticed that chocolate is not used in a lot of baking, and cookies are not nearly as ubiquitous as they are in many other countries. Mexicans mostly prefer to drink their chocolate (see how to make the best Mexican hot chocolate ever!), and assorted Mexican sweet breads (pan dulce) are their daily "sweets" of choice.

These cookies therefore make no claim to any kind of authenticity, and take their name from the use of Mexican chocolate and ancho chile powder in the list of ingredients. Mexican chocolate is flavored with cinnamon, sugar, and cacao nibs. It’s gritty and somewhat coarse with an intense flavor and is usually pressed into 3-oz tablets which are individually wrapped and packed in bright yellow hexagonal boxes. It is not particularly good for nibbling, but it adds depth and richness to this recipe. And the use of chile and black pepper are a surprise that adds just a hint of heat, with a subtlety that will have your guests wondering what it is.

I don't like my desserts too sweet (raised doughnuts make my hair hurt), but I don't believe it's possible to have too much richness, especially where chocolate is concerned. These cookies fill that bill! Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, they are the perfect treat for after dinner with a cup of coffee or glass of wine; and for the kids, well nothing goes better with a glass of ice cold milk!

(adapted from Cooking Light)
Makes 32 cookies

  • 6 oz. Mexican Chocolate, coarsely chopped (can substitute unsweetened chocolate)
  • 3/4 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Dash of black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ancho chile powder (or substitute cayenne pepper)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 large egg plus one yolk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place chocolate in a small glass bowl; microwave on HIGH for 1 minute or until almost melted. Stir until smooth. If it is not entirely smooth yet, microwave for another 20 seconds and stir again. Cool to room temperature.

Lightly spoon flour into a measuring cup (don't pack it) and level with a knife. Combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder, black pepper and ancho chile powder; whisk together until thoroughly mixed.

Put sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended and creamy. Add egg and extra yolk (the extra yolk helps make the cookies soft and chewy), and beat well. Add chocolate and vanilla, scraping chocolate out with a spatula to make sure you get it all; beat just until blended. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended.

Drop dough by level tablespoons (or use miniature ice cream scoop!) 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. If you don't have parchment paper, coat the pans lightly with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees until edges are set but centers are still slightly soft, 10 to 12 minutes. You have to watch these closely; if cookies begin to darken at the edges, they are over-done. (These cookies will be a bit thick and kind of crinkly looking.) Remove from oven. Cool on pans 2 minutes or until set. Remove from pans; dust with powdered sugar; cool completely on a wire rack.

Note that this dough is pretty stiff. If you have a miniature ice cream scoop, it will make the process easier (and also makes all your cookies the same size and nicely round).

For some fun variation, press a maraschino cherry into the top of each cookie before you put them in the oven. These also make excellent sandwich cookies; I like to put a big spoonful of thick dulce de leche between them for extra richness and decadence, but of course you can use the filling of your choice.

Buen Provecho!

If you have a favorite recipe for a Mexican or Mexican-inspired dish, I'd love to add it to our recipe box! email (and put "recipe" in the subject box so I'll know what it's about)


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