a.k.a. My New Favorite Things
I didn't grow up eating spicy foods, and would even shy away from the pepper flakes at pizza joints. I'm not sure when or what changed, but suddenly I want to add heat to everything. I'm slowly learning about the different ways you can incorporate heat and flavor, which peppers will give you both, which ones will only give you one or the other. Some hot sauces are great if you just want the sweat effect, but the truly great ones are the kind that give you nuances of both.
To me, spice is a little like that once-fabled sixth taste, umami. You know when it is missing, when it is needed, and when it is overpowering. Heat is number 7. It's like adding a texture, but for your taste buds, not your mouth.
Which is what brings me (finally) to these cookies. A simple recipe, and incredibly easy to make, but suddenly and unexpectedly elevated to the stuff legends are made of. I'm serious. If you enjoy creative food, and will allow yourself to be surprised by it, then try these cookies.
I highly recommend eating them alongside a nice latte or milky tea, as the richness of the dairy will help soothe the heat of the cookie. It's the perfect give-and-take.
Habanero Sugar Molasses Cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1.5 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 scant tsp. ground ginger
.5 tsp ground cardamom
.5 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
.5 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened*
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light or dark molasses
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
Habanero sugar** and regular granulated sugar for rolling
Place oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 375. Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. In a stand mixer, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add egg and molasses and gently beat until combined, making sure to scrape the sides down. Slowly add the flour and stir until uniformly mixed. This is not a particularly wet dough, but can be over mixed, so I would take it out of the mixer once it looks cohesive and use a spoon to get any dry flour pressed into the rest of the dough.*
Once dough is mixed, scoop out in small amounts, about .5-1 tablespoon in size.*** Roll into balls and then roll in the habanero sugar and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Oddly enough, these bake better on non-insulated, regular bakeware (no fancy non-stick surfaces). If you think the straight habanero sugar will be too much for you, combine it with regular granulated sugar to your liking.
Start the cookies on the upper rack, bake for four minutes, switch to lower rack, bake for three minutes, then remove from sheet and place on a cooling rack. This short cooking time ensures chewy cookies. Repeat until you run out of dough.
*The Bon Appetit recipe has you melt the butter. I tried that the first time and found that my cookies didn't crack as much as I wanted them to. But if you are in a time crunch and don't have time to soften your butter, melting it will still produce delicious cookies. And it does help keep the dough from getting dry.
**My habanero sugar came from this store, but a quick look around the internet tells me that you could find it at many different online spice retailers. If you are lucky enough to have a local spice store, give them a call to see if they carry it.
***You want these cookies small! The dainty size helps keep the ratio of sugar to cookie in tact and helps keep them from being too overwhelming for those unaccustomed to spicy desserts. Keep the mystery alive and let them reach for a second one, rather than burn out trying to get through their first.