The cookies I am sharing with you today are completely different than the Bittersweet Chocolate & Toasted Walnut Cookies Perfect Mundo! I posted last week. You cannot live on one cookie alone, right?
Those were big, crisp-edged, and fabulously chewy cookies (deep bow to Francois Payard), reminiscent of the best brownies you’ve ever eaten but thinner, chewier, and more chocolaty. I think of them as voluptuous cookies, not so much to be savored as devoured. They make you feel unredeemed and unrepentant.
Mexican Hearts of Fire, on the other hand, are demur, almost austere, little cookies that befit reflection, refinement, and lovely rituals, such as afternoon tea. You don’t devour them, you savor them, you take your time eating them, you experience the HERE, the NOW. They make you feel almost saintly.
These exceptional cookies fall in the shortbread category, because they contain a high amount of butter and no eggs. However, they are not likely to remind you of typical shortbread, as they are ever so crisp, thin, extravagantly spiced, and hot as Hades.
There is something else a little unusual about these cookies. I don’t know why (I suspect the rather large quantity of orange oil) but even though the cookies look perfectly “normal” when they go into the oven, as they bake, the texture opens up a bit, and they get craggy around the edges. (MauiJim insists on calling them Hot Lava Cookies.) At first I thought this was something I needed to correct in the formulation, but then it hit me, “Hey, this effect is cool. Leave the formulation alone.”
Mexican Hearts of Fire Cookies
Sometimes love is intense, fiery, a little ragged around the edges, and bittersweet. Those adjectives also describe these addictive, crisp little chocolate-orange-chile-cinnamon-cayenne cookies.
2½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
½ cup superb-quality cocoa powder (I used Valrhona natural-process cocoa)
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1½ cups unsalted butter (3 cubes)
1½ cups extra-fine sugar (regular sugar will also work)
minced zest of 1 large orange, about 1 tablespoon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (Mexican or Tahitian vanilla if you have on hand)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
½ teaspoon cayenne powder (or ¾ teaspoon if you can handle the heat)
White Chocolate Icing
4 ounces premium white chopped, finely chopped
1.In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside.
2.In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, orange zest, vanilla extract, orange oil, cinnamon, ancho chile powder, and cayenne powder until well combined, about 3-4 minutes.
3.Add the flour mixture and mix on very slow speed briefly, just until dough just begins to forms.
4.Divide the dough into three pieces, each about 12-ounces, and flatten each piece between layers of plastic wrap.
5.Seal each package with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 days.
6.Lay a round of well-chilled dough on a plastic rolling mat or sheet of plastic wrap, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and, and roll cookie dough to 1/8-inch thickness.
7.Cut with 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutters and place 1-inch apart on a heavy cookie sheet.
8.Bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes, until cookies are lightly browned on the bottom. This is difficult to ascertain with chocolate cookies, so bake a few, let cool, and then taste. Cookies should be crisp and dry. Adjust baking time accordingly on subsequent batches.
9.Remove from the oven and loosen each cookie from the baking sheet with a spatula. Let the cookies cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheets. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack.
10.When cookies are completely cool, lay out of a wire rack.
11.Put the white chocolate in a small glass bowl and microwave for 30 seconds, and then for additional 10 second increments, until chocolate is melted when stirred with a wooden chopstick. (This typically takes 50 second total in my microwave.)
12.Quickly spoon melted white chocolate into a small pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with an 1/8-inch diameter opening.
13.Pipe the melted white chocolate over the tops of the cookies and let the icing firm up for at least an hour.
14.Stack cookies in an airtight cookie tin in a cool, dry place. Iced cookies will keep for 1 or more weeks.
Makes about 7 dozen cookies.
Check out these additional CHOCOLATE recipes, which are part of the first annual Love Rules! celebration at LunaCafe (All Chocolate All Month):
Smokin’ Hot Chocolate Pudding
Burnt Sugar & Rosemary Chocolate Tart
Chocolate and Cabernet Red Velvet Pound Cake