The other night I was very cold so I made a hot chocolate. My method for a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants hot chocolate is pretty simple: I warm milk, whisk in unsweetened cocoa powder and a bit of sugar. I taste and allow it to thicken a bit at a simmer. Then, at the last minute, I add a quarter of a Ghiardelli Bittersweet Chocolate bar. Suddenly it’s like you’re drinking a hot melted chocolate pudding and everything’s wonderful. Now imagine sprinkling in some cayenne pepper and cinnamon and turning that hot chocolate into a cookie. Say what? Allow me to explain.
Knowing that I was serving carnitas for dinner the other night, I needed a dessert. There were some on-the-nose Mexican desserts like flan or coconut rice pudding, but I wanted something a little bit more crowd-pleasing. Can you imagine a crowd roaring to the news that they’re about to eat flan? No, I can’t either.
Here’s the deal: these cookies don’t have any eggs in them. Just butter. In fact, the recipe title is “Mexican Hot Chocolate Shortbread” and when I first read it I thought, like most shortbread, it would be a dry, crumbly affair, not a moist, decadent cookie kind of experience. How wrong I was. I’m not sure what makes these cookies so wonderfully moist and almost fudge-like: is it the high ratio of butter to everything else? Is it the fact that almond flour is used in addition to all-purpose? Is it the short baking time?
I have no idea but both flavor-wise–with the almond flour, almond extract, cocoa, cinnamon, espresso, cayenne and sea salt–and texture-wise, these cookies are killer. I mean, really. They’re the Speedy Gonzalez of cookies; as you reach for them, they fly towards towards someone else’s mouth crying, “¡Ándele! ¡Ándele! Yeehaw!” (Impressive punctuation, right? Thanks Wikipedia.)
So the next time you make Mexican food for dinner, serve these cookies for dessert. They may not be as authentic as flan, but flan is about as exciting as homework which I know is true because I once had to make flan for Spanish class homework with Jessica Aronowitz. These cookies are the opposite of homework which is why they’re destined to make people happy.
Recipe: Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
Summary: From Cheryl and Griffith Day’s “Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook.”
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour (If you can’t find it, you can make it yourself by pulsing skinned almonds in the food processor; just don’t over-pulse or you’ll have almond butter)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder or finely ground coffee
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
About 1/4 cup granulated sugar for dusting
Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk the flours together in a medium bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer), cream the butter, vanilla, and almond extract until the mixture is pale in color, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the speed down to low, add the brown sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, espresso, salt, and cayenne pepper, and continue to mix until the mixture is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture in thirds until just combined. With the mixer running, sprinkle in the chocolate chips, mixing until just combined.
Transfer the dough to another bowl and finish mixing by hand to make sure no bits of flour or butter are hiding on the bottom of the bowl and the dough is thoroughly mixed. (I skipped this step and just used a rubber spatula to bring everything together in the mixer bowl.)
Use a small ice cream scoop to form the cookies, about 1 rounded tablespoon each, and place on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving 1 inch between the cookies to allow for spreading. (I also did this my own way, using a large ice cream scoop and just making big cookies. That may have had something to do with why they were so extra buttery, because they didn’t get cooked all the way through? But they were terrific, so you can decide which path you want to travel.)
Flatten each cookie with a cookie stamp dusted with granulated sugar, or gently flatten each cookie with the palm of your hand and then dust the tops with sugar. They will have little cracks in the top. Refrigerate the cookies for at least 1 hour, or up to 5 hours.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F.
Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time for even doneness. Cool the cookies completely on wire racks. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature.
I think it’s important to use the mini semisweet chocolate chips because they sort of melt into the dough as they cook; another reason, perhaps, that the cookies were so fudge-like.