chocolate-cayenne dessert cookies

The November issue of Food & Wine stopped me in my tracks last week. First, there was a turkey on the cover, reminding me that Thanksgiving (and all the good food that goes along with it) is fast approaching. Second, there were so many recipes I wanted to try, I must have dog-eared every other page.

Because I wanted to make these cookies so desperately, I was thrilled to find exactly 1/2 cup of cocoa powder left in my tin. It was meant to be. And although Dorie calls these cocktail cookies (and they certainly could be), I like the idea of savoring them for dessert alongside the last sips of red wine.

Chocolate and red wine aren't a new pairing. One of the wineries we often visit in Santa Ynez makes a blend they encourage you to pair with chocolate. If you go to one of their tastings, you'll often find little bits of chocolate in a bowl on the tasting table where the Eros is being poured. I especially love how the flavors arrive in these little cookies. First, the chocolate, as expected, and a touch of salt on your tongue. The cayenne is just enough for a slight kick without being overpowering, and it enters just as you're finishing the first bite, wondering if you didn't add enough to the dough. But it's there, and the cookies melt in your mouth.


Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan, Food & Wine (November 2011)

The original recipe had a yield of 6 dozen cookies; I used a slightly larger cutter (2 inches) and ended up with about 2 dozen cookies, as well as some additional dough left over. I can see these doing quite well at any holiday party, including New Year's Eve. They're small, adorable, and keep for a couple of days so you can easily prepare them well ahead of time.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
Maldon or sea salt, for sprinkling

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, cayenne and sea salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter and both sugars on a low speed until creamy. Add the egg and beat until smooth. Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until just incorporated.

Using a spatula, divide the dough in half and place each half on a sheet of parchment paper. Cover with another piece of parchment and roll out into a smooth disk to about 1/4-inch thick. Slide the disks, still covered with the paper, onto a baking sheet and freeze for at least 1 hour, until very firm.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with a silpat. On a cutting board, work with one piece of dough at a time. Peel off the top sheet of parchment paper and use a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter to stamp out cookies as close together as possible. Arrange the cookies 1-inch apart on the baking sheet and sprinkle with some salt.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until just firm. Let the cookies cool for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.