Sometimes a grown-up sort of party calls for a grown-up sort of cookie.
A and I were invited yesterday to a cocktail potluck–the idea being that guests bring their favorite liquor, mixer, or pre-mixed cocktails instead of a food dish. In my completely unbiased opinion, A is a master bartender. His liquor cabinet has been known to make grown men swoon at his feet. He was planning to bring a quart of classic daiquiris; with full-flavored rum and fresh-squeezed lime juice, it’s a cocktail that creates summer wherever it goes.
I’ve never been very good at mixing drinks. I didn’t know much about cocktails before I met A, and now the most I can say is that I know which liquors and flavors I like. Sure, I can follow a cocktail recipe, but I’ll forget the proportions immediately, which is never very helpful when trying to impress your friends. Luckily for me, A is always happy to whip up a cocktail for me or any visiting dignitaries who might be around.
I didn’t even bother trying to think of a cocktail recipe to bring to this potluck. I decided instead to focus on what I know I’m good at: feeding people. Since it was a birthday party, I wanted to bring a sweet treat; but I also wanted something that would do well followed by a strong sip of something, whether it be rum or whiskey or gin. Reflecting on classic bar snacks, I knew I wanted salt and spice to be involved; and if there were ever a fan of the modern romance between salt and chocolate, it’s me. Chocolate and chili get along quite well, so all that remained was how to put the flavors together.
I didn’t have many ‘extra’ ingredients on hand–no nuts, no chocolate chips, no dried fruit–so I settled on the relatively lean and simple crinkle cookie. I made them mini-sized, to be eaten in a bite or two in between sips of cocktail, but regular-sized cookies would be just as tasty and slightly less tedious to form if you’re not into the zen of rolling cookies between your palms (which I kind of am).
If you just want a hint of spicy rather than a full-blown kick, dial down the cayenne, but keep the ancho where it is. It adds an earthy bass note to the chocolate.
Salt and Chili Crinkle Cookies
1 2/3 C flour
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T ancho chili powder
1 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t ground cayenne
1/2 t salt
8 T (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 C granulated sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 C powdered sugar
1 t coarse salt (I used Celtic gray)
Preheat oven to 350° and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper, or lightly grease.
In a medium bowl, mix flour, cocoa, baking powder, ancho, cayenne, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing fully in between additions. Add vanilla and mix well. Pour flour mixture into the butter mixture and mix well.
On a plate or baking dish, mix powdered sugar and coarse salt. Roll cookie dough between your hands into balls–teaspoon-sized for mini cookies or tablespoon-sized for regular–and roll each cookie in the powdered sugar/salt mixture. Place on prepared cookie sheet, 1 inch apart for mini cookies or 2 inches apart for regular. Bake 8-10 minutes for mini cookies and 10-12 minutes for regular. Cool 10-15 minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire rack.
Makes 75-80 mini cookies or 25-30 regular cookies.