With Valentine’s Day being right the corner, naturally my thoughts turn to one thing: chocolate (Psshh, no, I DIDN’T mean to say “love”). Chocolate is an amazing substance. It’s been around for thousands of years, and it’s native to the Americas. In fact, both the Aztec and the Mayans used their version of chocolate in religious ceremonies, including as an offering to please their fickle gods. It’s also historically been used as a medicine for stomach upset, inflammation, fatigue, anemia, and a host of other ailments. In fact, English physician Dr. William Hughes said in 1672: “Chocolate nourishes and preserves health entire, yet causes a pleasant and natural sleep and rest. Drunk twice a day, a man may very well subsist therewith, not taking anything else at all.” Now THAT’s my kind of prescription!
These days, medical science is a wee bit less zealous about the use of chocolate – but it’s still being studied for its health benefits. Dark chocolate especially is gaining a reputation as a healthy, helpful substance in moderation. It shows a lot of promise in helping to lower blood pressure, improve cognitive function, control blood sugar, provide valuable antioxidants, and more.
SO – since we know that chocolate is, indeed, good for you (again, let’s use that key phrase: in moderation) I thought I’d share a recipe that features that wondrous substance. It would be great for Valentine’s Day, or any special occasion throughout the year (like, say, the fact you got up this morning. Or it’s Tuesday. Or you made it through a whole day without yelling. etc.)
A fun twist that’s recently cropped up is the combination of chocolate and spice. While chocolate’s often thought of as strictly for sweet concoctions, adding a kick of spice to it gives it a wonderful new edge. This recipe for Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies, from cookingchanneltv.com, is a relatively simple way to try this unusual combination.
- 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
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate together, whisking until glossy and smooth. Alternately, the butter and chocolate can be melted in the microwave (in a microwave-safe bowl) in 25-second increments, whisking between each interval. Cool the chocolate mixture to room temperature.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand-held mixer), beat the brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract and eggs on low speed until well combined. Pour in the cooled chocolate and continue to mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
In a medium bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, chili powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne pepper. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate batter and mix on low speed until just combined and no visible flour remains. Fold in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
Working in two batches, scoop 12 balls of dough (preferably using a small ice cream scoop with a spring handle, about 1 1/2 tablespoon size) onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches of space between each cookie. Bake the cookies, one pan at a time, for approximately 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking time. The cookies should be puffy and still fairly soft when removed from the oven.
Immediately slide the cookies, still on the parchment paper, onto a wire cooling rack. Cool just a bit before serving, 5 to 10 minutes.
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