Monday, November 29, 2010

Cinnamon-Spiced Hot Chocolate Cookies


The holidays roll around and that typically means that all kinds of cookie exchanges come along with it. I've never really been interested in participating in any kind of exchange primarily because I really only like cookies when they're fresh. Cookies just lose all their appeal to me once they cool down.


Give me a glass of milk and a plate of fresh cookies and I can easily make it through a large plate. That's exactly what happened with this amazing cookie. I have never used or honestly even thought of using cayenne pepper in a cookie although I had heard of it in some Mexican recipes I'd seen before. It has a pretty amazing effect. It doesn't provide an immediate spiciness but it gives a subtle burn following the rich chocolate flavor.

The dulce de leche sauce on the top provides the perfect compliment to the flavor. You can find dulce de leche in some grocery stores but you can also make a version yourself by taking a can of sweetened condensed milk, removing the wrapper and boiling the unopened can for 2-3 hours, making sure the can stays completely covered the entire time.

Cinnamon-Spiced Hot Chocolate Cookies
adapted from Food Network

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Mexican cocoa powder (or substitute by adding 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon to unsweetened cocoa powder)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
6 tablespoons sweet butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg white
3-4 Tablespoons water
1/2 cup dulce de leche, optional
1/4 cup almonds, finely chopped, optional

Directions

Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix thoroughly with a whisk and set aside. Combine the sugars in a small bowl and mix well with your fingers pressing out any lumps. (Combine in a food processor if lumps are stubborn.)

In a medium mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the butter and margarine until creamy. Add sugar mixture, cinnamon, peppers, and vanilla. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute. Beat in the egg white and until the mixture is smooth. Stop the mixer. Add the flour mixture, beating on the lowest speed, just until incorporated. Mix in just enough of the water for dough to come together. Gather the dough together with your hands and form it into a neat log, 9 to 10 inches long by 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Fold or twist ends of the paper without pinching or flatting the log. Refrigerate at least 45 minutes, or until needed.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Use a sharp knife to slice rounds of chilled dough, a scant 1/2-inch thick. Arrange the cookies, 1-inch apart, on the prepared baking sheets. Bake 10 minutes. Cookies will puff and crackle on top, and then begin to settle down slightly when done.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven and use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool. Allow the cookies to cool completely before storing or stacking. Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks, or freeze up to 2 months.

To spice things up, after the cookies are baked, let them cool on a wire rack, drizzle with dulce de leche and sprinkle chopped almonds on top.


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