Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies: A Comparison

A comparison of Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies: adapted version of Everyday Food Magazine on the left/Cooking Channel on the right
For El Día de Muertos (The Day of the Dead), I decided to make Mexican Chocolate Cookies for my students because the cookies were portable and pleasant hybrids between Mexican and U.S. desserts. I tried out two recipes: 1) a heavily adapted version from Everyday Food Magazine on Martha Stewart's website and 2) a recipe from the Cooking Channel website. While both recipes yielded delicious cookies, one was clearly better than the other. Before I reveal the winner, let's talk about the pros and cons of each recipe and its end product.

Everyday Food's Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookie
THE RECIPE: Despite having to wait for room-temperature butter and eggs (eggs are easy to warm quickly), this recipe was easier to put together than the Cooking Channel recipe because it called for cocoa powder (I used the regular version which explains the lighter color of the cookie) as its primary chocolate ingredient. I adapted the recipe by adding cinnamon and ancho chile to the batter as well as the outside. I adapted the recipe by adding chocolate chips, vanilla extract, and brown sugar (in place of half of the white sugar). Lastly, I refrigerated the cookie dough overnight before shaping them into balls and rolling them in the cinnamon/chile/sugar mixture (I always refrigerate my cookie dough!). Due to these numerous changes, my opinions about these cookies are based on my adapted version of the recipe, not the actual one on Martha Stewart's website.
Martha Stewart/Everyday Food: Soft cookie with less intensity of chocolate flavor. Made with regular cocoa powder.

THE EVERYDAY FOOD MAGAZINE COOKIE: As one of my tastetester's stated, the chocolate chips saved these cookies. One of my students went crazy over this cookie but also added that it would have been even better if there were melted chocolate in the batter instead of just cocoa powder (pretty astute observation, I'd say!). Another student said it was just okay, but it wasn't bad; however, most said they liked the cookie (but they could have been buttering me up for an A in the course haha) and that it tasted like a gingerbread cookie. My opinion? I agree with the negative opinions. I thought they were soft, but they were a bit dry, and the external coating of cinnamon and ancho chile and chocolate chips were welcomed interruptions to the dry, somewhat blandish taste. I was so nonplussed about these cookies, that I was compelled to try out the recipe from the Cooking Channel 10 o'clock at night!!

Cooking Channel's Spicy Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookie

THE COOKING CHANNEL RECIPE: This batter was akin to a brownie batter, which was a good sign! It started with melting chocolate and butter together (so no waiting for room temperature butter) and incorporating that mixture with the other wet ingredients. Next, a tablespoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of chile powder (make sure it is pure chile powder without added garlic!) are added to the dry ingredients and then the chocolate chips. As always, I refrigerated the cookie dough for a few hours before baking the balls of dough. This step was really necessary with this batter because it was too soft at room temperature while the other recipe's batter was more sturdy from the start. I liked the cinnamon/sugar coating from the Everyday Food recipe, so I added an extra step of rolling the balls of dough in a mixture of cinnamon, ancho chili powder, and brown and white sugars. I tried the cookies with and without the coating, and the coated cookies looked and tasted better. Aside from the external coating, I made no other changes to this recipe.

Cooking Channel: Chewy, chocolatey, brownie-like texture. No cocoa powder added, just melted, semi-sweet chocolate
THE COOKING CHANNEL COOKIE: I think based on my comments in the previous paragraph it is obvious I preferred this cookie over the adapted version of the Everyday Food recipe. It tasted like a thinner version of a brownie but in cookie form. It was darker in color and had a chewy, chocolatey texture that blended perfectly with the chocolate chips. Unlike in the abovementioned cookies, the chocolate chips were not a welcomed interruption to a bland, dry cookie; instead, they meshed and married with the other ingredients to become one, harmonious, yummy, chocolatey, brownie-like cookie. After taking only one bite of this cookie, one of my students said, "Will you adopt me?" Both of my colleagues, who had tasted both of the cookies I'd made, said that this cookie was indubitably better than the other.

SUMMARY: Although the Cooking Channel's recipe requires a bit more work, it yields a better cookie. I know I made many changes to the Everyday Food Magazine's recipe, but those changes were typical improvements for cookies (i.e., adding vanilla extract, chocolate chips, brown sugar, dough refrigeration, shorter cooking time and lower temperature). I think the culprit of the failure of the Everday Food cookies was the cocoa powder. It just couldn't compete with a melted chocolate/butter mixture. I have posted both recipes below with my adaptions in italics.

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar*
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda* (I used 3 tsp of baking powder in place of the cream of tarter AND baking soda)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon chile powder (I used ancho chile powder. Make sure there is no salt or garlic!)
If not refrigerating the dough, preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, baking soda (or just baking powder in place of the cream of tartar and baking soda), and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Next, add eggs and beat to combine. With mixer on low or with a spoon, gradually add flour mixture and beat until combined. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour for better cookies.
In a small bowl or a sealable bag, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, and chile powder. Using heaping tablespoons (or 25-26 grams of dough), form balls of dough and roll in cinnamon/chile/sugar mixture. Place, about 3 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are set in center and begin to crack, about 10 minutes (for a soft cookie, bake for 7-8 minutes), rotating sheets halfway through. Let cookies cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze the dough for months. (I plan to save this cookie dough in the freezer. Later I plan to bake them into large cookies and use them as a cookie crust for cheesecakes or pies!)

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional (I did not have this)
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon chile powder (I used ancho chile powder. Make sure there is no salt or garlic
If you are not planning to refrigerate your dough, preheat the oven to 165 degrees C OR 325 degrees F. (I highly suggest refrigerating the dough for at least an hour although more is better!)

Whisk together the chocolate and butter in a in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water until it turns into a glossy and smooth mixture. I simply melted the butter and chocolate in the microwave in 30-second increments, and I whisked between each interval. Set the chocolate mixture aside to cool while you put the other ingredients together.

In a large bowl, beat the brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract and eggs on low speed until well combined. Next, mix in the cooled chocolate until the ingredients are evenly distributed.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, chili powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne pepper. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined and no visible flour remains. Do not overmix! Fold in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

Working in two batches, scoop out balls of dough (about 1 1/2 tablespoon size or 25-26 grams (I weighed each ball of dough)). Optional yet highly suggested: Roll the balls of dough in the cinnamon/chile/sugar mixture. Place the coated dough balls onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and use the bottom of a glass to push down the cookies into small semi-flat disks. Bake the cookies for approximately 14 minutes. The cookies should be puffy and still fairly soft when removed from the oven. They will deflate while cooling and will have lovely cracks and gooey chocolate around the edges. Yum! Enjoy!


  1. The recipe does not include how much sugar to mix with the chile powder and cinnamon to make the mixture into which the cookie dough balls are rolled. I'm going to guess it's the same amount as the cinnamon, 2 tsp. Thanks for the recipe!

  2. I just made a batch of the Cooking Channel's version, and re-reading the recipe now I see that you indicated they should be cooked at 325 degrees if the dough is not refrigerated. You did not include the temperature that should be used if the dough is refrigerated. I baked mine at 325 for 14 minutes and now that they have cooled I find they are not quite done. I would recommend baking the refrigerated dough at 350 degrees.

    1. I'm sorry that your cookies were not done. On the recipe posted on this blog, the instructions state "If not refrigerating the dough, preheat oven to 375 degrees." not 325 degrees. That may be why your cookies were not done. However, 350 should work too.


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