Last night, I went to a Cookie Swap Party with the crew from Taste Buds Kitchen. It should come as no surprise that when you get a bunch of cooking teachers together for a holiday party, the focus of the night is going to be food. There were beautiful cookies, unique cookies, classics and non-cookie caramels in excess. Paired with mulled wine and prosecco, ‘light fare’ appetizers including mac and cheese balls and mini pizzas, and a little friendly competition and you have a recipe for a great evening! Everyone tasted the various treasures, cast their ballots, and walked away with a goodie bag Martha Stewart would be proud of.
Traditionally, cookie swap parties were designed to ease the burden on housewives and mothers during the baking-filled holiday season. Back in the days of June Cleaver, women would bake and wrap a dozen cookies per guest, plus one for tasting. At the party, women would display their and taste each other’s treats, and at the end of the night everyone would take home a dozen of every kind of cookie represented at the party. That way, when the holiday season came in full swing, all our Maiden of the House had to do was lay out a batch of cookies from the party, and she was guaranteed to have homemade treats for friends and family! Genius.
As for my contribution, I made a cookie I have had a long desire to try. I love the combination of spicy and chocolate (and salted and chocolate, but that’s another story), and thought the dynamic duo would make an excellent holiday cookie. So I used this cookie-baking extravaganza to test a new recipe – Aztec Chocolate Chunk. For the base, I used a chocolate-chocolate chunk one bowl wonder cookie that has a long-standing track record for success in my kitchen. Then, for the Aztec-Effect, I added the tri-fecta of spicy chocolate spices – cinnamon, cayenne, and black pepper. The results? A rich chocolate cookie with a bright and spicy zing that builds with every bite. The spice adds a warm and refreshing, albeit unexpected, dimension to the intensity of chocolate and I could practically feel my taste buds expanding with every mouthful, begging me to keep eating… which I happily obliged. I wasn’t the only one pleased with the results, as my Aztec babies took home the ‘Most Surprising’ Award! Just goes to show the next time you want to surprise your friends or family, sneak a little spicy into their chocolate vice!
Aztec Chocolate Chunk Cookies
makes 18-24 cookies
1 box Baker’s semi sweet chocolate squares
½ stick butter or margarine
¾ c. brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. Baking powder
¾ c. flour
1 + ¼ t. cinnamon
¼ t. cayenne pepper
1/8 t. black pepper
1 package semi sweet chocolate chunks
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Microwave chocolate squares for 2 minutes until all the squares are melted. (You can always use a double boiler or DIY with a bowl resting on a pot of boiling water like I did. Cut the ½ stick butter into smaller pieces and stir into hot chocolate until melted. Add eggs, brown sugar and vanilla. Combine baking powder, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper and flour in a bowl, stirring to make sure the cayenne doesn’t all end up in one cookie. Add flour mixture to melted chocolate mix. Stir in chocolate chunks.
Drop onto cookie sheets, with enough space between cookies for spreading. If you get 18 cookies, bake for 13 minutes. If you get 24 cookies, reduce the cooking time to 12 minutes. I like to switch the cookie trays half way through to make sure everyone gets equal heat.
Remove and let cool on wire racks.
Enjoy at home, with friends, or at your next holiday party!