Spiced Chocolate Shortbread Cookies are just right for this blustery, winter weather. Spicy notes of cinnamon and cayenne pepper add warmth to the rich chocolate flavor. Defrost your taste buds with each crunchy bite.
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Did you ever read the book (or see the movie with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp), “Chocolat” by Joanne Harris? If not, I highly recommend both. In the story, chocolate drinks and confections, with a little added cayenne pepper, creates magic, transforming the lives of the inhabitants of a conservative French village. When I first saw the movie (18 years ago), combining chocolate with pepper didn’t appeal to me, but the “Chocolat” story wove its magic on me too, so I made some Mexican drinking chocolate.
Mexican drinking chocolate is made like regular American hot chocolate with the addition of cinnamon and cayenne pepper. I love cinnamon even more than chocolate, so I was happy to add a pinch or two to my cocoa. It was the pepper that concerned me. I anticipated spicy heat. I was totally wrong. You could add a lot of pepper and create real heat, but in small amounts, the cayenne pepper adds just a lovely warmth that intensifies the chocolate flavor. That cup of hot chocolate may not have transformed my life (the story is, after all, fiction), but it did change my opinion of pairing chocolate and pepper.
Just like in Mexican Hot Chocolate, the pepper in Spiced Chocolate Shortbread Cookies provides cozy background warmth. If you are looking for spicy heat, you will need to increase the amount of pepper in the recipe. Each bite of Spiced Chocolate Shortbread Cookies is a crunchy, buttery, combination of chocolate and cinnamon with a gentle, warm finish.
For easy preparation, I made Spiced Chocolate Shortbread Cookies as a slice-and-bake cookie. The dough is rolled into logs which are chilled then sliced, as needed, and baked. This dough can also be rolled out for cut-out cookies like I did when making Double Dipped Shortbread Cookies. Whichever method you choose, I recommend using mini chocolate chips rather than regular sized chips for smoother slices or rolled dough.
I included Spiced Chocolate Shortbread Cookies in my January military care package with a “Spice Up the New Year” theme. Military food is notoriously bland. My care package contents were intended to remedy that situation with a selection of condiments, spices, and spiced cookies. Also, a friend gave me a whole bag of the little sauce packets that she saved up from fast food orders. What might have been thrown out, was instead mailed off to my soldier, where those little packets were cause for celebration.
Spice up your baking with some Spiced Chocolate Shortbread Cookies. Their sweet warmth is like getting a hug from a cookie.
Spiced Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cocoa I use Whole Foods 360 brand Fair Trade cocoa
- ½ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips I use Whole Foods 360 brand Fair Trade chips
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon Penzey’s Vietnamese Cinnamon of more intense flavor
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- For decorating:
- Nonpareil sprinkles about 7 tablespoons
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, chocolate chips, salt, cinnamon and pepper.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light. Add vanilla and mix to combine.
- Gradually add flour mixture and mix just until all of the flour is incorporated and the dough forms.
- Form the dough into a log, compressing to remove air bubbles.
- Line a jelly roll pan with wax paper and spread sprinkles in the pan. Gently roll the dough log back and forth over the sprinkles to coat. (If the dough is too sticky to roll easily, refrigerate first then roll in sprinkles.)
- Wrap the log in wax paper and cover in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.
- When ready to bake: Preheat oven to 325˚F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Slice the dough log ¼” – ½” thick.
- Place on prepared baking sheet about 1” apart and bake for 10-12 minutes. (Cookies firm as they cool).
- Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Store layers of cookies between wax paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Double wrap small piles of cookies in plastic wrap, then place snugly in an airtight container or zip lock bag for mailing. Vacuum sealing is recommended when longer freshness times are needed.
Baking tools I used and recommended in this post: