Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

And now for the next entry in the Holiday Recipe Exchange with GoodLife Eats and My Baking Addiction... This week I decided to go the easy route and start with a recipe from a fairly reliable source... Martha Stewart! I know Martha gives some folks the frights, but I've found her recipes to usually be worth repeating... This one in particular I've tried in the past and found them absolutely addicting, so I decided I'd share my take on her recipe for Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies. This cookie is like a cross between a snickerdoodle (owing to the cream of tartar) and a cup of hot chocolate with a little bit of chile heat added in for fun. They come out of the oven slightly crispy but still chewy and wonderful! If you enjoy this recipe, then come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Scharffen Berger.

Santa would LOVE a plate of these cookies!
Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies

Original recipe source: Martha
Adaptations by me!

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (the darker the better)
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup unsalted butter -- (2 sticks) room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (homemade if possible!)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground ancho chile

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  

Pepper prep: Take your ancho chile pod and break it open, removing all the seeds and the stem. Place the flesh of the chile in your food processor or, if you're like me and have a dedicated "spice grinder" (aka coffee bean grinder that's been re-purposed for spices), use that. Just be sure you don't use your regular coffee grinder for this or you're next cuppa joe may be on fire! Grind the pepper until it's in powder form. If, like me, your pepper is a little too soft (ie. not dry enough) grind enough for this recipe and then let the rest dry out for another use. Put 1/2 tsp of this freshly ground pepper in a small bowl for later use in this recipe.

Freshly ground ancho chile

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Well creamed butter and sugar takes time...don't underbeat it!
Scrape down side of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat to combine. With mixer on low,
add the cream of tartar, salt and baking soda, allowing each ingredient to incorporate before adding the next. Add cocoa powder next followed by the flour in small increments (so you don't wear it!)

Dough's ready to go!
In the small bowl with your freshly ground ancho powder, add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. 

The rolling mixture
Using heaping tablespoons (I used a #40 cookie scoop which is about 1.5 tbsp), form balls of dough and roll in chile-cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place, about 3 inches apart, on baking sheets. 

Ready to bake
Bake until cookies are set in center and begin to crack, about 10 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. 


Nicely crackled but still chewy

Enjoy this recipe and let me know if you give it a whirl! I love to get comments from readers who've tried them!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Spiced Cranberry Butter in the crockpot

At this time of year I get to thinking about food gifts from my kitchen, and about ways to use up things in my fridge so I have room for all those holiday dishes, etc.  So, along that vein, yesterday I made Cranberry Butter in my crockpot... Cranberry Butter is like apple butter, only made with fresh (or frozen) cranberries rather than apples. In this case I had some cranberries I'd frozen as well as some fresh ones that I needed to use so into the crockpot they went!  After tossing the cranberries in, I added some sweetening (in this case a combination of sugar and honey) and some spices (cinnamon, clove and ginger) and then turned the crockpot on low. It cooked all day on low, smelling up the house with it's holiday goodness, and then in the evening I removed it all to my food mill and gave it a whirl to remove the skins from the cranberries. After that I put it back in the crockpot, adjusted the seasoning (adding a little more honey and some salt for flavor contrast) and let it run overnight on the "keep warm" setting with the lid ajar to allow it to thicken up a bit more.  And so this morning we have some super cranberry butter for eating and for giving... Thought I'd share the recipe and a little pic of it for anyone interested in giving it a whirl!

Cranberry Butter in the Crockpot

2-3 lbs fresh or frozen (not thawed!) cranberries
2 cups sweetener of choice (sugar, honey, maple syrup or a combination)
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground clove
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp kosher salt
Place cranberries, 1 1/2 cups sweetener, cinnamon, clove and ginger in the crock of your slow cooker and turn on low for 8-10 hours. After this time, remove to a food mill or food processor and puree until smooth. Return to slow cooker and adjust sweetness to taste as well as adding the salt. Allow to continue to cook on low (or keep warm setting) with the lid ajar for another 4-6 hrs or until thickened to your liking. Freeze or water-bath can for giving as gifts.  Makes about 4 cups of butter or 4 half-pint jars.

Great on toast or biscuits or try it served over cream cheese with crackers for a great appetizer! Also great when turned into a "baked brie"...

For Baked Brie, you'll need 1 sheet puff pastry, 1 wheel of brie cheese, about 1/4 cup chopped nuts and the cranberry butter. Put the puff pastry sheet on a greased baking tray. Trim the rind off the wheel of brie then place in the center of the sheet. Top with chopped nuts and then spoon a couple of tablespoons of the cranberry butter overtop. Fold the puff pastry over all the enclose then put into a 350F oven until golden brown all over. Serve hot with some extra cranberry butter if desired. YUM!