It’s Halloween, which means that tomorrow is Dia de los Muertos and I am feeling extra spicy this year. I had big ideas of baking up a batch of shortbread skull cookies and intricately decorating them in colorful calavera (sugar skull) designs, but I’ve been short on time for shortbread this week. So, instead I whipped up an easy to make recipe that hits all of the flavor stories of the spirit of the season.
Dia de los Muertos has me craving one of my favorite indulgences this time of year, an expertly crafted spiced Mexican Mocha. A typical mocha is uninspiring and downright blah to me, but throw in some cinnamon and a wicked kick of spicy pepper and I melt like a Hershey’s bar caught in the death grip of a trick-or-treating toddler.
This recipe is a spicy twist on a traditional Snickerdoodle. The cookie maintains that soft and chewy snickerdoodle texture, but incorporates semi-sweet cocoa, bringing a subtle chocolaty-ness to the cookie base. Spicy ancho chile powder mixed in with the cinnamon sugar brings a surprising punch of flavor and intrigue to the sugary exterior. Ancho chile is naturally sweeter and less intense than cayenne, however you can substitute in cayenne for a higher level of heat, or even chipotle for a more smoky flavor.
These Mexican Mocha Snickerdoodles are quick to prepare and aren’t sickeningly sweet like that giant bowl of leftover Halloween candy that will haunt your pantry for the next six months. Get in the spirt of the spirits and bake up a batch of Mexican Mocha Snickerdoodles this Dia de los Muertos, or really anytime you feel like spicing it up.
- unsalted butter at room temperature - 1 cup (2 sticks)
- granulated sugar - 1/2 cup
- brown sugar - 1/2 cup
- eggs at room temperature - 2
- all purpose flour - 2 1/2 cups
- dark unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Valrhona) - 1/2 cup
- instant espresso powder - 1-2 tablespoons (depending on your flavor preference)
- cream of tartar - 2 teaspoons
- baking soda - 1 teaspoon
- salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- pure vanilla extract - 1 1/2 teaspoons
- cinnamon - 1 teaspoon
- granulated sugar - 3 tablespoons
- cinnamon - 1 tablespoon
- ancho chile powder or preferred chile powder alternative - 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon (depending on spice tolerance level)
- Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, instant espresso powder, salt and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon together in a large mixing bowl.
- Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl a couple of times during this process.
- Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the eggs and vanilla and blend for another 1-2 minutes. Scrape the bowl again.
- Keeping the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients until fully incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Cover and chill dough for 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- While dough is chilling, prepare the sugar and spice mixture by blending the granulated sugar, cinnamon and chile powder together in a small bowl.
- Remove dough from the refrigerator, it should be cool and slightly firm. Using a cookie scoop, form ping-pong sized balls and roll each ball in the sugary spice mixture.
- Evenly place 6-8 dough balls on a prepared cookie sheet, I prefer to use silpat mats or parchment paper.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the tops of the cookies begin to crackle a bit and they have formed a nice little dome.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- *A word of caution, the chile spice can be a little intense sometimes so be careful not to inhale a big ol' bite or you could end up with a spicy version of a cinnamon challenge on your hands.