My mom recently took a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico (not to be confused with Mexico, which is where my brother told me she was when I absentmindedly called home looking for her, forgetting she was away). She and my aunt try to pick a different place each year to meet, see the sights, and catch up with each other since one of them lives on the East Coast and one on the West Coast, and they wouldn't get to see each other much otherwise. I wonder if my sisters and I will ever do that some day...
My mom always remembers us kids when she's away, and I often get postcards and little gifts in the mail from the various places she's been. This time she sent me a huge box of spices, sauces, and cookbooks. It was so exciting opening up the box and revealing one bubble-wrapped item after another. There was chocolate pate and piloncillo (a version of brown sugar), chipotle powder and Mexican vanilla, chocolate extract and posole, and so much more!
I'm so excited to try everything, and I really want to find some creative ways to use the things she sent me.
I started small and stuck to what I'm good at, which is baking. Instead of using the ancho chile powder in a savory recipe, I decided to go for something sweet: Mexican chocolate crackle cookies. These remind me of cookies my family has made every Christmas called chocolate pixies. I think they might also be known as crinkle cookies. The difference here is that instead of just a plain chocolate cookie, the Mexican chocolate cookies use what we think of as traditional Mexican accompaniments to chocolate: coffee, cinnamon, and chile powder.
The recipe says they're best eaten on the day they're made -- and I have to agree. I made them around 11 pm, tried some after I baked them, and then brought them to work the next day. I liked them best right out of the oven, but they were still supermoist and soft the next day. The following day, they weren't quite as good though.
You may wonder why I was making cookies at 11 pm, as that sounds kind of crazy. I made them a couple weeks ago, when I made that fabulous strawberry spinach salad, when Jeff was at the Bruins game. I prepared the cookies, scooped them onto cookie sheets, and put them in the fridge. I hadn't expected the game to go into double overtime, so I had planned to prep the cookies, run out and pick Jeff up, and come back and pop them in the oven -- at a reasonable time. I kept contemplating putting them in the oven when the game went into overtime and then double overtime, but the thing about overtime in hockey is that it's sudden death, and since that meant the game could end at any minute, I couldn't take my chances with the cookies. I waited until the game finally ended and I had picked Jeff up and brought him back home before I preheated the oven and finally baked these off.
Mexican Chocolate Crackle Cookies (adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking)
(Print this recipe)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon coffee liqueur or cooled brewed coffee (I used brewed coffee)
6 ounces 70% cacao bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped or shaved
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar, divided
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted and cooled
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Melt butter and chocolate over double boiler or in microwave-safe dish. Stir in coffee. Set aside, and let cool slightly.
Process flour, nuts, cinnamon, baking powder, and ancho chile powder in food processor until nuts are finely chopped, about 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.
In bowl of electric stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip eggs and 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar on high speed, until light in color and thick, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the melted chocolate mixture, and continue whipping until blended, about 1 minute.
Scrape down the bowl, and add the flour mixture. Beat on low just until combined. Make sure all flour has been incorporated and there's none hiding in the bottom of the bowl.
Cover the dough with plastic, and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, until firm.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment or nonstick mats (such as Silpats).
Place remaining granulated sugar in one small bowl and confectioners' sugar in another. (I recommend wide, shallow bowls.)
Using a small cookie scoop, scoop the dough into tablespoon-sized balls. Roll each ball in granulated sugar and then in confectioners' sugar. Coat them well.
Place the sugared balls on baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart as you go.
Bake cookies one sheet at a time for 11 to 14 minutes, until the cookies are puffed and cracked. When the cookies no longer stick when you gently nudge them, they are done. You're better off underbaking them than overbaking them, so when in doubt, pull them out.
Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack, and let them cool completely.
These cookies have a nice depth of flavor from the inclusion of coffee, cinnamon, and chile powder. The heat doesn't overtake the cookie, but rather it lingers in the background. In the book this is referred to as a "sultry earthiness." The chocolate is rich, and if you cook them just right, the cookies are wonderfully moist and fudgy. Rolling them in granulated sugar before the confectioners' sugar adds a subtle crunch, giving these another level of texture. They rank among my favorites.
What are you doing for Cinco de Mayo? Do you try to make foods that go with the day, or do you treat it as just another day?
Do you have any recommendations for what I can do with my new goodies? I'm especially wondering how to put that mole sauce to good use -- it's something I've never tried before.