Mezcal and Mexican chocolate from Oaxaca
#100daysofcooking, Recipes

Day 35: Chocolate cookies that are a labour of love


Oaxacan Chocolate Cookies


“Love is like chocolate. It can be bitter, it can be sweet, and it can be just in the middle, but if you choose the right person to share it with, love is just perfect.”  — source unknown

In honour of Valentine’s Day, along with the known fact that in February an Edmonton girl’s mind naturally travels to Mexico, I hit the kitchen to make this Washington Post recipe for Oaxacan chocolate cookies for my sweetie.

In the aftermath of that adventure, I have a few additional thoughts that pertain to love and chocolate cookies. To wit: it requires a little elbow grease. It can be a little complicated. If you don’t like the first batch, add more sugar.

Let me explain.

Elbow grease: When daughter Erin flew the coop, she took with her the Kitchen Aid Lift-Stand Mixer. To be fair, it was hers (a Christmas gift after the old Sunbeam mixer gave up the ghost) and she is an amazing baker, so it really is in the best home. But now I am doing all this baking and making do with a hand-me-down hand mixer that has one speed. Full. Imagine the spatter havoc this brings to the simple act of “cream butter and sugars.”

Furthermore, this recipe calls for the dry ingredients to be folded by hand into the creamed butter and sugars, creating a dough that almost has the consistency of gingerbread. It is hard work!

Complicated: I have never seen a cookie recipe with this many steps. Check out the part where, halfway through baking, you turn the cookie sheet 180 degrees, plus move it from the top to bottom rack. And after struggling through the creaming and folding, I was not willing to risk ignoring these steps.

Add a little sugar: These cookies are quite amazing — savoury, intensely chocolate, with almost a shortbread-like quality. They were also not what Dan was expecting. His first response was: “Well, these didn’t exactly turn out.” On a subsequent batch, I swapped out the sprinkle of sea salt for a sprinkle of sugar.

A chocolate labrador and a box of cookies
Apropos of nothing at all, here is a variation on love, chocolate and cookies in our house. Meet Charlie, the chocolate Lab.

For the kitchen castoffs, I had two ingredients in mind: some sticks of Mexican chocolate brought back from our holiday in Huatulco, plus a teeny bottle of Mezcal that I obtained many, many years ago. For former Edmonton Journal colleagues who remember the Mezcal Golf Tournament, this bottle came to me during those glory days and occupied a place of honour on my newsroom desks.

The Mexican chocolate worked out just fine; it’s a bit coarse, blended with sugar and cinnamon and was a more-than-adequate substitute for the dark chocolate that the recipe calls for.

As for the Mezcal, well, Dan was strongly against using it and in the end, I agreed. Though the bottle had never been opened, most of the liquid had evaporated and the two (two!) worms bobbing around in the remains were more than a bit off-putting. As a substitute, vanilla probably would have worked fine but I used bourbon instead. After the chaos with the hand mixer, I deserved it.

For all the work, these are strangely unique, wildly delicious and probably my favourite of any cookies I’ve ever made.

As for the effort required, as Erin bluntly pointed out: “Mom, you should just go buy yourself a new mixer.”

Love. It’s also very, very honest.

Kitchen castoff used

Oaxacan chocolate. And, almost, the mezcal

Oaxacan chocolate cookies
Oaxacan chocolate cookies

This is how we did it

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp mezcal (or bourbon, or vanilla)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup of dark chocolate, chopped into pebble sized pieces (or dark chocolate chips)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling

Method

With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugars, salt and mezcal (or substitute).

In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Then use a flexible rubber spatula to fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture until it is combined. Finally, fold in the chocolate chunks or chips.

Separate the dough into halves or thirds. With each batch, you will roll it into a wax paper-wrapped “log.” I did this by laying the wax paper on the counter, putting a batch of the dough on it and using the paper, plus the pressure and warmth of my hands to form it into a cylinder. The mixture was still a bit crumbly so it did take a bit of shaping. My cylinders had a diameter of about  1.5 to 2 inches. The cookies don’t spread out a whole bunch when baking, so the size of the cylinder will be just a bit smaller than the final size of the baked cookie. Wrap it tight in the wax paper (I did kind of a burrito fold on the sides), then put in the refrigerator for at least an hour. It can stay in the fridge like this for up to two weeks, or you can wrap it in plastic and freeze it for up to a month.

When you are ready to bake, heat the oven to 325 degrees and position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Grease two baking sheets.

Cut the dough into slices about 1/2 – 3/4-inch thick. (The recipe actually says slices of 1 inch thick, but that seemed quite large to me.) Place them on the baking sheet, about two inches apart.

Bake for seven minutes, then rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back. Bake for another seven minutes.

Remove the cookies from the oven, brush the tops with a bit of beaten egg and sprinkle with sea salt (or, as I did on the second batch, a bit of granulated sugar). Return to the oven and bake for a final two minutes.

Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the cookie sheet for three minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool.


Curious about my “Kitchen Castoffs” concept? Here’s the explainer describing my 100-day project.

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