Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Great Cookie (or Treat!) Countdown Week 3: Cinnamon-Spiced Hot Chocolate Cookies

Hi and thanks for stopping by! This year I am on a mission to test drive one new cookie or treat recipe a week until Christmas. Join me as I find some new favorites, and have fun along the way!

This week, I attempted a recipe that sounded absolutely amazing to me, with some twists that I had not tried before. Sounds like the perfect fit for this series... so off I went! The recipe is Cinnamon-Spiced Hot Chocolate Cookies. courtesty of Aaron Sanchez. Before I get into the recipe, I want to talk about how to make this recipe frugal. Oh, and check out how fabulous these look. You know you want one!

There are three parts to this cookie. One, the dough. I followed the recommendation in the recipe to add cinnamon to my unsweetened cocoa powder (both already in my pantry) instead of buying Mexican cocoa powder. I highly recommend this substitution, as the cookie base turned out very nicely - rich and chocolately, with that warming cinnamon overtone. Honestly, the cookie is delicious all by itself. If you want to stop at just the cookie, they are fabulous on their own!

I, of course, wanted to go for the "optional" parts of the recipe -- the chopped, toasted almonds and sweet, drizzled dulce de leche, which would make these cookies over-the-top, delicious, and irresistable! Toasting the almonds is super easy. I buy in bulk and store nuts in the freezer -- toasting as needed. This is much cheaper than buying those little packages of nuts in the cooking aisle of the supermarket, not to mention how much better they taste freshly roasted! Oh yes, the nuts were the EASY part... The real challenge came in the dulce de leche.

Yes, I know, you can buy dulce de leche in the supermarket, for about $4 each. Dulce de leche is a thick, caramel-like sauce, made from milk and sugar. That being said... how hard could it be to make? Certainly I could make it for less than $4 for 14 ounces. I was confident. How hard could it be? (Go ahead, chuckle.. it's ok! I didn't know what I was getting in to!)

I started looking for recipes. I found many, with a couple different approaches. Some used sweetened condensed milk at the main ingredient. I didn't have any of that in my pantry, as I don't use it very often. I kept looking and found many recipes that used mainly milk and sugar. Now, that's more like a Frugal Frolic kind of recipe :) Of those that I found that mainly used milk and sugar, there were two approaches: microwave, or stovetop.

Many, many sites had recipes for a microwave preparation of dulce de leche, using milk and sugar. Given the prevalence of these, I decided I'd try this approach, following the recipe very carefully. The result was, as my teens would say, "EPIC FAIL"! I didn't watch it carefully enough, and it burned. Then it took a whole day to clean out of the bowl. Not frugal or frolicky at all!

I did some more research. I found several sites (including Martha Stewart and Alton Brown's recipe on the Food Network site) that had stovetop preparation instructions. With much trepidation (and a watchful eye) I tried this approach. The result was not fully successful. It tasted wonderful, and had a rich, caramel color. It certainly was frugal. Unfortunately, as a sauce it was just too runny. Great for ice cream, not so great for these cookies.

Third time's the charm, you say? Well, I haven't tried a third time... I assembled the cookies with the sauce, and they were quite tasty indeed. Messy, but tasty! The combination of the cinnamon spiced chocolate, with the sweetness of the sauce, as well as the rich toasted almonds is truly wonderful. I do recommend it, though I can't recommend a recipe for making your own dulce de leche.. at least not yet :)

Cinnamon-Spiced Hot Chocolate Cookies

From the site, Recipe courtesy Aaron Sanchez
Prep Time: 40 min
Inactive Prep Time: 45 min
Cook Time: 14 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 36 cookies



Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix thoroughly with a whisk and set aside. Combine the sugars in a small bowl and mix well with your fingers pressing out any lumps. (Combine in a food processor if lumps are stubborn.)

In a medium mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the butter and margarine until creamy. Add sugar mixture, cinnamon, peppers, and vanilla. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute. Beat in the egg white and until the mixture is smooth. Stop the mixer. Add the flour mixture, beating on the lowest speed, just until incorporated. Gather the dough together with your hands and form it into a neat log, 9 to 10 inches long by 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Fold or twist ends of the paper without pinching or flatting the log. Refrigerate at least 45 minutes, or until needed.

Put the oven racks in the upper and lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Use a sharp knife to slice rounds of chilled dough, a scant 1/4-inch thick. Arrange the cookies, 1-inch apart, on the prepared baking sheets. Bake 12 to 14 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through. Cookies will puff and crackle on top, and then begin to settle down slightly when done.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven and use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool. Allow the cookies to cool completely before storing or stacking. Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks, or freeze up to 2 months.

To spice things up, after the cookies are baked, let them cool on a wire rack, drizzle with dulce de leche and sprinkle chopped almonds on top.

Here's my end result. Messy, but tasty! I'll be trying to make the sauce again... sometime soon :)

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