Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mexican hot chocolate cookies

Mexican hot chocolate cookies

I just had to get fancy, didn't I?

The annual cookie contest was coming up at work, and I was mulling over my options. Snickerdoodles? Or maybe this new recipe I had for espresso fudge cookies? Neither looked terribly difficult, just make dough and put it on the pan and bake it.

But no. I couldn't take the easy way out, now, could I? I had to find a recipe that was way fancier, way more difficult, too, 'cause tasting good apparently wasn't enough for me. I couldn't just bring in a delicious cookie. I had to wow them.

And this is how I found myself in the kitchen at 1:30 a.m., swearing profusely, every surface and utensil (and of course my fingers, on both hands, somehow) sticky with dulce de leche, the pastry tips clogged, the counter covered in almond bits. Bleh. I spent hours on these damn cookies, and I'm sure that at least two curse words were said for every damn cookie that resulted.

And to add insult to injury, I didn't even win the damn contest. The winner was someone who made cookies into ice cream sandwiches. I thought this was a cookie contest, not an ice cream (with cookies added to the outsides) contest, but oh, silly me. (My boyfriend, upon hearing of this, suggested that next year, I should make a layer cake with tiny cookies as garnish. Fair point, I think.)

But anyway. *ahem* These cookies did come out really good, after all of that work. I might even make them again, now that I've learned a few things about them, though not at 1 a.m. this time. They're a very complexly flavored cookie, cinnamon-chocolate with a hint of black pepper and cayenne, a little sweetness and a bit of crunch. They're sort of addictive, really. And they look impressive on a cookie tray (assuming you can display them in a way that they won't stick together).

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from a Food Network recipe, with help from Cooking for Engineers

1 c flour
1/2 c plus 1 tbsp unsweetened Mexican cocoa powder (or substitute by adding 3/4 tsp cinnamon to unsweetened cocoa powder)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c plus 1 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 c plus 1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp butter, softened
3 tbsp margarine (yes, margarine, do not substitute)
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
Generous pinch black pepper
Generous pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg white
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Chopped almonds

1. Whisk together the flour, Mexican cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
2. Mix together the sugars in a large bowl, making sure that there aren't any lumps. Beat together with the butter and margarine. Beat in the cinnamon, peppers and vanilla, then the egg white. Beat in the flour mixture until incorporated.
3. Press together into a neat log about an inch and a half in diameter, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill.
4. Slice about a quarter-inch thick, place rounds on a cookie sheet an inch apart and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on a rack.
5. Make dulce de leche: Some people will tell you to just boil the entire can in a pot of water, and that sounds great if you've got four hours. Me, I took the shortcut method: Pour the contents of the can into a huge bowl, the biggest one that you can use in your microwave -- it will look like overkill, but this stuff will swell up a ton, trust me. Then, cook on medium (NOT high, MEDIUM) for 2 minutes at a time, whisking in between, until thickened and caramel-y. If it gets too thick, you can whisk in a bit of water to loosen it up.
6. Spoon the dulce de leche into a pastry bag with a somewhat small round tip, or spoon it into a zip-top bag and snip the corner off. Drizzle the dulce de leche onto the cookies.
7. Sprinkle with chopped almonds, pressing them into the dulce de leche a bit so they stick.

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