This easy twist on classic chocolate shortbread cookies kicks them up a notch with hot spices, tart dried cranberries and roasted cacao nibs!
The first time I tasted Aztecan style chocolate I was smitten. I was working at a high-end department store sampling butter cookies for a Japanese company. And when I say I was sampling, I was handing them out, not taste testing them myself (though it IS possible a few cookies ended up in my mouth). A fellow food sampler in my department was sampling chocolate truffles and their Aztec Chili truffle was a revelation. It was the first time that I had ever tasted a spicy, bordering on savory, version of chocolate. Years later, I kept that combination in mind when I decided to go into the kitchen to make these chocolate shortbread cookies, Aztec style. (Jump directly to the recipe.)
Of course not everyone is a fan of spicy chocolate. I probably should have warned my friend Tina that they were spicy before she took a bite, as she wasn’t too pleased with them. However her husband Ben absolutely loved them. Of course this is the same person who is distraught over the temporary closing of the Sriracha factory. He loves his spice.
Personally I do too. There isn’t too much heat to them, as I like to enjoy my food, not suffer through it. But I love the way that the slight spice kicks these chocolate shortbread cookies up a notch. The addition of cinnamon and allspice adds an extra dimension to the chocolate while the touch of cayenne has a nice slow burn in the end. Nothing too drastic of course, but it’s lingers just a bit on the tongue, like a warm kiss from a loved one under the mistletoe.
Chocolate Shortbread Cookies, Aztec Style
By Irvin Lin
If you’ve never had spicy chocolate before, you’re in for a treat. The addition of cayenne, cinnamon and allspice to these shortbread cookies really adds depth to the chocolate. I added dried cranberries and roasted cacao nibs as well for texture and a slight burst of sweet tartness but those two additions are completely optional. Temper the heat by reducing the cayenne to 1/8 teaspoon if you want something with more mild, or increase the cayenne to 1/2 teaspoon if you really want to give it a little kick but I found the 1/4 teaspoon the sweet spot (pun intended).
1 cup (225 g or 2 sticks) butter at room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (see headnote above about adjusting heat)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (200 g) granulated white sugar
1 3/4 cup (245 g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (35 g) Dutch-processed cocoa (Hershey’s Special Dark works)
1/2 cup (65 g) dried cranberries, optional
1/4 cup (30 g) roasted cacao nibs, optional
Extra white granulated sugar to coat
1. Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Spray a 10 x 15 inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking oil and then line it with some parchment paper, leaving an inch or two hanging over the edge.
2. Place the butter, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne, salt and baking powder in the bowl of stand mixer. Mix on medium speed until the butter is smooth and uniform in color. Add the vanilla extract and mix to incorporate. At the sugar and beat until cream.
3. Add the flour and cocoa and mix until incorporated. Add the cranberries and cacao nibs and mix until evenly distributed in the dough. Scrape the dough out into the lined baking sheet and pat down to evenly distribute the dough thinly to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle two or three teaspoons of white granulated sugar over the top of the chocolate dough then shake the baking sheet around to evenly coat the shortbread cookie dough.
4. Bake in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until the edges are have darkened and feel firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes. Then grab the overhanging parchment paper and lift and slide the shortbread to a cutting board. Cut the shortbread while it is still warm.
Makes 48 squares cookies or 96 triangles cookies.
If you like this recipe, check out my recipe for:
Spicy Chocolate Caramel Popcorn Brownies.
And check out these other spicy chocolate recipes from around the web:
Farmgirl Gourmet’s Aztec Kahlúa Hot Cocoa
The Corner Kitchen’s Mexican Hot Chocolate Doughnuts
Love and Olive Oil’s Mexican Chocolate Tart with Cinnamon-Spiced Pecans
Baked Bree’s Mexican Chocolate Cake with Mascarpone Frosting
Cooking on the Side’s Mexican Chocolate Crackled Cookies