i think i may be possessed by a cookie demon. this cookie demon worms its way into my brain and convinces me that it’s a good idea to make a trio of ice cream sandwiches for dessert at rambling restaurant. i listen to this cookie demon and then i find myself experimentally baking 3 kinds of cookies for 3 kinds of ice cream sandwiches (each requiring 2 cookies) for 19 diners last night. all of which, including screwups and overspicing and um-let-me-try-another-one-of-those-to-make-sure-it’s-good adds up to…almost 200 cookies baked in the last 4 days. damn you cookie demon!
luckily, i happen to like cookies (duh). if you don’t like cookies, you have your own demons. i also enjoyed the excuse to play around with new recipes and have an automatic tester audience. it did make me slightly nervous that these cookies were for paying customers and therefore needed to be really good. but most of all, i was very happy to have an automatic set of mouths to feed these cookies to. if i bake by myself, there’s a possibility i will consume all the fruits of my labor and that’s never good. although let’s be honest – i definitely ate a lot of cookies this week. so many cookies that at certain points i kind of wanted to toss my cookies.
sorry. that’s gross. but true.
the resulting outpouring from my kitchen is the above photo taken right before dessert service in the rambling restaurant kitchen. i particularly like weird experimental cookie flavors, so i was happy to have total creative freedom to bake whatever kinds of cookies i wanted. i pondered on long bus rides and walks along the thames (all in the name of work- i don’t just meander along dreamily mid-afternoon and fantasize about baking…at least not on a regular basis) and came up with three flavors: chocolate cayenne pepper, lemon rosemary, and cinnamon honey walnut. the chocolate cayenne would go with the ginger ice cream i slaved over made and chef foodrambler would make two other ice creams.
so. we’ll start with the chocolate cayenne pepper. i made about 6 batches with varying levels of cayenne pepper. i am currently a bit obsessed with spicy desserts and cocktails – had a great jalapeno tequila recently in nyc – and have to check myself with my tendency to dump in a lot of spice to get a really strong kick. while baking and sampling a disgusting amount of cookie, i found that too much cayenne didn’t make the cookie much hotter since cayenne isn’t super spicy but more of a slow burn at the finish. more importantly, the extra cayenne added a dry and lightly burnt flavor and detracted from the rich chocolateyness of the cocoa powder. a good exercise in restraint for me. as you can see to the right, i also tried sprinkling the pepper on top of the cookie before baking. i loved the color contrast of the burnished dark gold cayenne and rich brown chocolatey cookie, but the pepper disappeared during baking and overdid the cayenne taste so i left that step out.
here’s the final recipe, adapted from this chocolate sugar cookie recipe from the beautiful smitten kitchen blog. i am smitten with her recipes and photography and someday hope to take such lovely photos (and own such lovely photography equipment).
Cayenne Pepper Chocolate Cookies
What You Need:
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder for baking
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar
10 tbsp unsalted butter, best if room temperature
1 and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
What You Do:
1. preheat the oven to 375º (or so…i still don’t really understand how to use my english stove).
2. mix all the dry ingredients – flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, baking soda and powder – in a big mixing bowl.
3. mix in the butter (i highly recommend thinking ahead long enough to ensure your butter is room temperature, it will make your life way easier) and the egg to make a tasty cookie dough. if you’ve got a food processor or electric mixer, your life will also be way easier. if not, your biceps will get bigger. i have done a lot of arm exercises this week.
4. grab tiny balls of dough and flatten slightly on a cookie sheet or two, then bake for about 8 minutes. these cookies bake really fast and taste much better soft and slightly undercooked in my opinion, so watch very carefully or use a timer like a smart person. this is knowledge gained through unpleasant experience. out of approximately 12 trays of cookies, i threw out 2 because i forgot i had cookies in the oven and they ended up all too hard. burnt cookies = not good.
5. stick in your mouth. wait for the slow burn of cayenne and the slow realization of awesomeness. enjoy!