Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

There are no pictures in this post because the cookies didn’t survive for even 24 hours –  they were born around 3 AM last night and finished around 7 PM today.

So it’s defense season.  A lot of my friends are defending, and a lot of the others are moving.  The result is that I’ve been inundated in a “take my junk!” movement.  This is especially true for those who are moving to Canada – something about how crossing even the one border makes it next to impossible (or at least way too complicated) to bring food products/spices.  So I got a ton of non-perishable foodstuffs and have been sitting here for a while contemplating what to do with it.

(By the way, I did find out what to do with the lemon cream cheese frosting I had leftover from before – I used it to make sandwiches with gingersnaps I made according to this recipe: http://www.recipesource.com/desserts/cookies/15/rec1578.html (admittedly I used lemon juice in place of vinegar since it seemed more fitting)).

Anyway, I decided I wanted to make mexican hot chocolate cookies.  I like mexican hot chocolate – we’re coming up on a decade that I’ve been putting chili powder in my cookies.  I wanted something that encapsulated that general feel.

When I first googled “mexican hot chocolate cookies”, I got a lot of results.  Like this onethis one and worst of all, this one.   The first, from the cooking channel, looked promising only it was the middle of the night and melting chocolate didn’t seem wise.  I also worried that the combination of melted chocolate and chocolate chips would make the result a lot heavier than the light, fluffy cookies in my head.  The second, from Martha Stewart, looked more promising, but I don’t have cream of tartar, and they spell chili like the country (Chile), not the powder.  The third, from Betty Crocker, would probably be quite tasty, but I’m adamantly opposed to using mixes.

So, I struck out.  What I really wanted was a cookie like a snickerdoodle, only chocolaty and a little bit spicy, instead of cinnamon-y.  However, googling “mexican hot chocolate snickerdoodles” only brought up variants of this recipe.  I have no personal issues with the vegan thing, but the taste of canola oil to me is super strong, and I can never make an oil cake that I’m happy with.  So I decided to steer clear.

So I had to adapt my own recipe.  I thought a snickerdoodle recipe was a reasonable place to start, but initially it was incredibly difficult to find a recipe without cream of tartar to start with.  Eventually, I found this recipe.  We were in business.

I should mention that I’d had it in my head for most of the day that I’d make cookies at some point during the day, so by the time I had a suitable recipe in mind, I’d had a stick of butter sitting at room temp for a few hours.

So, the recipe I used:

  • 1 stick butter (1/2 Cup, 1/4 lb) (room temperature!)
  • 1/2 Cup white sugar
  • 1/4 Cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Cup AP flour
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

I first preheated the oven to 350F (about 175C?).  I then creamed butter + sugar together in a large-ish mixing bowl.  I then added the egg and almond extract, and beat until totally combined and rather creamy.  Personally, I find that the smaller portions of my dry ingredients are difficult to combine totally if I add them after the flour, so I added the chili powder, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder first before adding the cocoa and then AP flour.

Once all of the ingredients were well mixed, I mixed the remaining 3 Tablespoons sugar and teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl.  I then formed the dough into small balls (about 1 inch, no larger than 1 1/2 inches) and rolled them in the cinnamon sugar mixture.  I placed them on a greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart.  Because I was bored waiting for the oven to preheat totally, I patted the balls down into discs before putting them into the oven, which didn’t hurt but certainly wasn’t necessary.

Baking powder (and baking soda) is extremely temperature sensitive, and the dough was rather soft/sticky.  Keeping both of these things in mind, I put the remaining dough into the fridge while waiting for the first batch to bake.  I think this allowed me to achieve better consistency between the batches than otherwise.

Again, these were VERY popular, to the extent where I didn’t manage to get any pictures before they were entirely consumed.  If I make them again, I will likely double the batch.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Blueberry Filling and Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

A new roommate moved in.  He’s super skinny – according to his own weight estimate and the online BMI calculators, his BMI is something like 17.  I’m finding myself unlocking what an old friend used to call “[my] jewish mother complex” – that is, I can’t stop feeding him.  He’s been here a week and I’ve made three loaves of bread, pizza, and now cupcakes.  I probably need to calm down.

Anyway, these cupcakes were his idea (I asked him to describe his dream cupcakes and riffed off of that), and are in honor of the fact that his parents are coming tomorrow to drop off some more of his stuff and I’m mildly afraid they’ll take him away if everything’s not perfect.  I figure I’ll bribe them with cupcakes so that I can keep him.  I need a roommate, badly.

They’re pretty unassuming looking (this is what happens when you inexpertly frost things with a butter knife).

cupcakes

From this, you mostly would assume they’re simple vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting.  You’d almost be right.

This was the base cupcake recipe.  I used the standard trick of making buttermilk by combining acid and milk – whole milk and lemon juice, in this case.  In general, the recipe was easy and easy to follow, although I’m not the hugest fan of oil cake (I think they taste like oil, and I can always tell).  I always use Trader Joe’s bourbon vanilla paste in place of vanilla extract, and in this case the ground vanilla bean gave the cakes a pleasant freckled quality.

This was the base frosting recipe.  I’m just bad at frosting – too impatient.  In this case, I put the bowl with the butter and cream cheese in the only-slightly-warm-I-swear oven to soften a bit, and when I went back to it the butter was starting to melt, which meant that getting the frosting to the right texture was next to impossible and required way too much beating.  Again, I used the vanilla paste and am pretty pleased with the flecks of vanilla here, too.  I added a generous amount of lemon zest and a splash of lemon juice when I could hardly taste the zest (I’m impatient, what can I say), which contributed both to visual texture and flavor.

I added shiny sugar to the top just to make them prettier.

However, when you bite into them, they are actually really cute.

cupcake

You can see the blueberry!  Yay!

I used this recipe for blueberry filling and was surprised at how ridiculously easy it was.  I always freak out a little when putting things in a pot on the stovetop when they aren’t quite covered by liquid – in this case, I was convinced that was a recipe for getting burnt bits of blueberry skin stuck to the bottom of the pot.  However, I took a leap of faith and assumed (somewhat correctly) that it was like cranberry sauce and everything would be okay.  And things were okay!  The sugar and the heat resulted in the blueberries forming more and more liquid and before long it really was a blueberry compote, instead of burnt and dried out blueberries, as I’d feared.

To fill the cupcakes I cut cone shapes out of the cooled cake, spooned in filling, and then cut the top off of the cone and patted it down over the filling – standard cupcake filling procedure.

Now that I write this post, I realize nearly identical cupcake recipes/concepts are all over the place:

Ah, well.  This was a fun project and kept me busy for a while.  The only question is what do I do with the remaining frosting?  I don’t think the correct answer is “eat it with a spoon”.

frosting