Friday, January 30, 2015


Among the heart-shaped cookies, candies and cakes proliferating this time of year, one of my favorites is this Mexican chocolate shortbread cookie.  I can never resist the introduction of spice in pastry, so I put together a cookie that celebrates the lovely marriage of chocolate and spice with just a hint of chile. 

The use of the heart as a metaphor to express romantic love and affection comes from the Middle Ages and the days of Chaucer.  It was more directly popularized in the 19th century as a symbol for Valentine’s Day, which originated with the Feast of Saint Valentine, named for Valentinus, a Christian saint who performed weddings.  And let’s not forget Cupid, the son of Venus and the Greek god of attraction, whose arrows contain the prospect of uncontrollable desire.

Since chocolate, in all its refined sumptuousness, has come to evoke endless desire in our day, it seems appropriate that it, too, is a central part of our modern profession of love.  This cookie contains a good amount of cocoa, a measure of sweetness and enough butter to create a crispy, crumbly expression of love, no doubt a suitable object of desire.

Bench notes:
- This recipe calls for Dutched cocoa powder, which has a milder flavor, but I've also used natural cocoa powder.
- I use a 2 1/2” heart-shaped cookie cutter but use any shape or size you wish.  The yield may be different.  Just keep the size uniform so they bake evenly and keep a close eye on the baking time if they are much smaller. 
- Be careful not to overbake or the cookies will take on a bitterness.  Test for doneness by lightly nudging the side of a cookie with your fingertip.  If it moves without resistance, it’s done.  If you prefer, coat the cookies in sugar after removing from the oven and cooling a couple of minutes so you can see more clearly see how they’re baking.  Or bake one first as a test to see how long it takes to bake in your  own oven.
- If you enjoy Mexican chocolate flavors, try rich and creamy Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream.

Makes fourteen 2 1/2 “ cookies

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz) flour
1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz) Dutch-processed cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
heaping 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
6 oz (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter @ room temerpature
2/3 cup (4 3/4 oz) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) sugar + good pinch cinnamon, for dusting
Whisk flour, cocoa, salt and spices together. 

Beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla and almond extracts until creamy and smooth but not fluffy, about 1 minute.  Add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.  Be careful not to overmix.

Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap.  Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap and flatten the dough.  Roll it into an even, flat 1/4” thick disc. Slide onto a baking sheet or pizza pan and chill until firm, at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment or silpats.  Combine 1/2 cup sugar with a good pinch of cinnamon.

Peel off the plastic wrap from both sides of the cookie dough.  Cut out heart shaped cookies and dip them in cinnamon sugar to coat evenly.  Place on the baking sheet.  Bake in lower third of the oven for 20 - 22 minutes.   Cool pan on a wire rack. 


SallyBR said...

Oh, these are ADORABLE! And the mixture of spices with chocolate, a winner for me all the way....

perfect cookies!

La Table De Nana said...

These look lovely!

pastry studio said...

Thank you Sally and La Table De Nana. They're pretty tasty, too.

Happy Valentine's Day!

mimi rippee said...

These are absolutely gorgeous cookies, and they sound delicious! I love chocolate and cinnamon together!

pastry studio said...

Hey, mimi, I also really do love chocolate and cinnamon. They seem to be made for each other! I think I'm going to have to put these two together a bit more in my repertoire.

Anonymous said...

These look wonderful! Does the recipe double easily? Thank you.

pastry studio said...

Yes, you can double the recipe for all your sweethearts. Just make two bundles of dough to roll out and chill. Happy Valentines!

Victoria said...

These are simply beautiful, and just the right temptation for the month when Valentine's Day falls. No one can resist hearts and chocolate in February!

pastry studio said...

Hey, Victoria! Thought of you the other day when I passed Michael Recchuiti's shop. Hope all is well in your world. Wishing you a superb Valentine's Day!

Miriam said...

These look so good. The combination of spice and chocolate is always a winner for me.
Just wondering if they're meant to have an egg? Noticed none listed, and don't want mine to fall to pieces!

pastry studio said...

Helloooo, Miriam. I don't use an egg. Keep mixing until the ingredients start to form clumps and hold together when pinched. If you do this, it will be a cohesive dough. Hope you enjoy them!

Kate said...

Once again these look like a must bake!
I've made so many wonderful recipes from you, I don't doubt these are going to be great too.
I've made "hot "cayenne, spicy, chocolate cookies before but never added cinnamon to them. These will be something new.
So many of my friends are either going low-carb or gluten-free…
I guess I'll just have to eat them all myself :-)

pastry studio said...

Hi, Kate. Thanks so much for your kindness. Glad to hear you've enjoyed my recipes enough to drop a note. This cookie is an interesting spice play and cinnamon really adds beautifully to the complexity. I'm sure you'll find someone with whom to share!

Happy Valentine's Day!