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Bob Batson's Oaxaca Flats

Bob Batson is a self-described “mystic fire priest”; I think that means he enjoys spicy foods. Chocolate has an affinity for hot spices, especially pepper. These are rather fragile, crisp, dark chocolate cookies; they contain coffee, cinnamon, and both black and cayenne peppers to give them a little zing. The amount of pepper I use is quite small, but you can increase it to taste.

You’ll need a rolling pin and a cookie cutter to make these. My cutter is round, and exactly 2-11/16 inches in diameter. Yes, I know; I have the only cutter this size in the universe, but a cutter 2-1/2 or 2-3/4 inches in diameter will be fine here. Incidentally, I use a French rolling pin, which is one long piece of wood tapered at both ends, as I find this style much easier to use than any other. I also roll out the dough between two sheets of wax paper. This dough becomes soft quickly at room temperature, and this way there is no chance of it sticking to a pastry board. If it too soft to work with, I simply leave it on the wax paper and place it back in the fridge for a little while. The finished cookies will keep for a day or two at room temperature. They freeze nicely for a month or so, as well, but if frozen for much longer, the spice flavors begin to fade.

1 tsp. instant coffee granules
1 egg, graded “large”
1-1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened, alkalized (Dutch processed) cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/16 to 1/8 tsp. (or more to taste) freshly, finely ground black pepper
3 large pinches (or more to taste) finely ground cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine coffee granules and egg in small cup. With fork, beat to mix well; let stand at least 10 minutes. Into small bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt. Set aside.

In medium bowl, combine softened butter, sugar, and vanilla. With large spoon, cream until well-mixed and fluffy. Beat in egg. Add flour mixture and blend in thoroughly (dough will be on the stiff side). Divide dough in half. Flatten each half, wrap tightly in wax paper, and chill for at least 1 hour.

To roll dough, work with one half at a time (keep remaining half refrigerated). Roll out dough between two very lightly floured sheets of wax paper. If dough is too cold, it will crack; if this happens, wait a few minutes until dough softens slightly before rolling. Periodically, peel off, then replace, top sheet of wax paper, then flip dough by holding both sheets of wax paper together and inverting. Peel off, then replace, what has now become the top sheet of wax paper. If any sheet of wax paper becomes too wrinkled, discard it and replace with a fresh sheet. Roll out dough to a scant 1/8 inch thickness. Place dough, still between wax paper sheets, on a cookie sheet so it will hold its shape. Return to refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes. Repeat with other half of dough.

About 15 minutes before you want to bake the cookies, adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Remove one cookie sheet of rolled-out dough from refrigerator and peel off, then replace, top sheet of wax paper. Flip dough as described above; peel off what is now the top sheet of wax paper. Using your cookie cutter, cut rounds of the dough as close to one another as possible; gently lift the cut cookies onto a prepared baking sheet (use a spatula if necessary). If required, flour cookie cutter very lightly. Place only three cookies on the first sheet! It can be difficult to judge when these are done; these three will be your “test” cookies. You can continue to cut out enough cookies to fill a second foil-lined sheet at this time (because these spread, place only 12 cookies on a 15-1/2 by 10-1/2 inch sheet), but refrigerate this second sheet of unbaked cookies, as you’re not sure of your baking timing yet. Collect any dough scraps and combine them into a ball, press with your hand to flatten, wrap in wax paper, and chill.

Bake your test cookies for 8 to 9 minutes, turning baking sheet back-to-front once about halfway during baking time. Cookies will spread and puff up slightly; they are done when the center just feels firm. Remove from oven; let stand 1 minute before removing to cooling rack. If you haven’t made these before, it might be wise, before baking any more, to let your test cookies cool completely, then try one. They should be crisp throughout, but not burned. Continue cutting and baking cookies, re-rolling the chilled scraps once or twice.

Cool cookies thoroughly before storing at room temperature for up to two days; freeze for longer storage.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

© Stephanie Zonis

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