Ancho Mole Cookies

I wanted to make a pretty cookie, but it just wasn’t going to happen. I really thought I could do it. I’ve probably made thousands of cookies by now, but they were mostly the drop kind. Not the freeze, roll into a three-sided triangle shape, roll in sesame seeds, freeze again, slice really thin through the hard chocolate and nuts without distorting the shape kind. But the Ancho Mole Cookies sure tasted good, despite being less than the perfect triangles I was hoping for.

Epicurious had the recipe for Ancho Mole Cookies on their web site recently, and as soon as I saw it, I knew I was going to make it. The combination of chocolate, chile, cinnamon, sesame seeds, fruit, and nuts — ingredients in a classic mole sauce –was pure genius, and immediately caught my attention and went on the “bake soon” list. Plus, they were just so dang pretty. Perfect equilateral triangle slices, with dried fruit shining through like colored glass.

Russ noticed I was busy in the kitchen, and asked what I was making. “Cookies for the blog.” Russ: “My name is Blog. That’s my new name”. “Blog” gave them his seal of approval, really liking the chile bite combined with the chocolate, fruit and nuts, and he didn’t care that they weren’t equilateral triangles.

Instead of dried fruit, I used fruta cristalizada, a common treat in Mexico, where entire halves of camote (sweet potato), large chunks of papaya or calabaza (winter squash), whole figs and many other fruits are cooked in a sugar syrup until candied, but still tender on the inside. The colors are like gems. If you are not in Mexico, use any dried fruit you have on hand.

Make these cookies. Don’t be put off by my misshapen attempt. I plan on making them again, and just not obsessing over achieving a triangle cut as specified in the original Epicurious recipe. Round cookies are fine. A good cookie is a good cookie, regardless of shape.

Omit the chile if you are faint of heart/palate. And use white flour, if you are not of the whole wheat persuasion. If you use ancho chile powder, be prepared for a mouth tingling zip that leaves you reaching for another cookie.

Ancho Mole Cookies

  • 1 cup (4 oz/115 g) nuts (I used walnuts)
  • 1¼ cups (6.34 oz/180g) raw sesame seeds, divided
  • ¼ cup (.84 oz/24g) pure, ground ancho chile powder
  • ¼ cup (59ml) agave syrup
  • 2 cups (256 g) whole wheat or all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 12 Tbsp. (6 oz/170 g)unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup (33.55 oz/100 g) sugar
  • 1¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 large egg yolks (save the egg whites for brushing on the rolls)
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (130 g) dried fruit, such as papaya, mango, or pineapple,, cut into (¾”) pieces. I used papaya cristalizada.The weight may vary, depending on the moisture content of the dried fruit.
  • 3/4 cup (4 oz/110 g) chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Toast nuts and 1/4 cup sesame seeds for 10 minutes, tossing halfway through. Set aside.
  2. Blend all dry ingredients, chile and cinnamon included.
  3. In standing mixer, cream butter and sugar until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat an additional minute. Add agave syrup and beat until well blended.
  4. With mixer on low speed, gradually add dry ingredients until blended.
  5. Stir in nuts, toasted sesame seeds and dried fruit.
  6. Divide dough in half. Roll each half into a 10″ log and wrap each one in plastic wrap or wax paper, rolling again to make each log smooth. Freeze for 20 minutes on a flat surface.
  7. Now you have a choice. Either follow Epicurious’ instructions and slap the cold cylinder on the counter to form a 3-sided triangle form, OR skip that and leave as a perfectly round log shape. Whichever your choice, leave wrapped and freeze an additional 15 minutes.
  8. Working with one log at a time, unwrap and brush with egg white. Roll in remaining 1 cup of sesame seeds, covering surface completely. Freeze unwrapped for about an hour, until surface is firm but not frozen.
  9. Pre-heat oven to 350 F/180 C.
  10. Slice each log into 1/4″ (6.35 mm) slices. If dough warms and becomes soft while slicing, return to freezer for 10-15 minutes. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet, spaced 1″ (25 mm) apart.
  11. Bake 10-12 minutes, until edges are set, but centers are still soft. Let cool on baking sheets.

Notes ~

~ Ancho chiles are dried, smoked poblano chile, with a complex, smokey flavor. The powdered form is common, and is found in many salsas and moles.

~ Mole ( MOH-lay) is a classic Mexican sauce used for chicken, pork, almost any meat. I’ve even spooned it over sautéed tofu slices. The states of Oaxaca and Puebla are famous for their mole. Depending on ingredients, mole can be green, yellow, black or red, and there are more than a dozen different ways to prepare it. Fruit, chocolate, seeds, nuts and chile are typically found in mole sauces. Bottled Doña María mole sauce is the easy way to make a mole dish at home. You’ll find it in the Mexican food aisle if you are north of the border. For those of you south of the border, Doña María is in every little grocery store in Mexico.

© 2009-2021 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

All photos and text are copyright protected. Do not copy or reproduce without permission.

Chocolate prune cake

Childhood memories of Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate bars from the years we lived in England come to mind now and then. Pastelerias (cake shops) in Mexico make very tempting, creative cakes, evidence of European immigrant and foreign government influence. What about a chocolate cake that takes its inspiration from Cadbury’s raisins and almonds? Am I starting a new thing? No. Recipes for Cadbury cakes are all over the internet, mostly from the U.K. Every time I think I might have come up with a new recipe, I find it’s been on the internet for years. Oh well, here’s a very different chocolate cake from this immigrant, me. It’s made moist with prune puree, filled with almonds and raisins, and special enough that it will be our New Year’s Eve dessert and see us into 2021.

Prune puree works some kind of culinary magic, so that less fat and sugar still produce plenty of sweetness and tenderness. Only 1/4 cup of sugar is used, and 1/4 cup coconut oil or butter. Coconut oil seems to work its own chemistry, making for more tender cakes.

At the risk of sounding like a commercial for Costco, bakers south of the border can get very good Kirkland brand almendras (almonds), ciruelas secas (prunes), and chispas de chocolate (chocolate chips). But don’t go to Costco for pasas (raisins). Mexico’s markets and little stores have the best, tinted with reds and purples, and two to three times larger than raisins north of the border. They taste sweeter, too, but maybe that’s due to my own enthusiasm for these colorful morsels. In Mexico, you can find them in generically labeled bags or in bulk.

Our New Year’s Eve menu is yet to be planned. Maybe French onion soup with a cheese souffle. No tamales or atole tomorrow night, you ask? Well, when Emperor Maximilian thought he could rule Mexico, his plans failed, but the wonderful cuisine of France stayed. I don’t think we’ll be the only ones in Mexico enjoying French dishes tomorrow night. Bon appetit! I mean, Buen provecho!

The Chocolate Prune Cake is already baked, and because it’s extra moist, it will still be fresh and tender tomorrow evening. That is, if we don’t eat it all by then. You may notice there remained five pieces for the photo above. Will I ever learn to take photos, then eat?

For New Year’s Eve, Russ and I will be staying home with our pup, Yolo, enjoying each other’s company, maybe a movie, and definitely good food. May you enjoy the same. Feliz Año Nuevo!

Chocolate Prune Cake ~ 9 – 12 servings

  • 1.5 cups (10.6 oz/300 g) pitted prunes
  • 1 cup (6.7 oz/190 g) chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) melted coconut oil or butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup (4.5 oz/125 g) whole wheat pastry flour or regular whole wheat flour (for gluten free, see notes below)
  • 1/2 cup (1.65 oz/48 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 oz/50 g) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (3 oz/85 g) almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (2.25 oz/63 g) raisins
  • Confectioner’s sugar to dust on cake (optional)
  1. Cut parchment paper to fit bottom of 8″ or 9″ baking pan. Grease and flour sides of pan.
  2. Simmer prunes in 1.5 cups (355 ml) water for 10 minutes, or until prunes are very tender. (See note below.)
  3. Puree undrained prunes, while still very warm, in food processor with 1/2 cup chocolate chips, eggs, oil and vanilla.
  4. Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C).
  5. Sift dry ingredients into large bowl.
  6. Stir prune mixture into dry ingredients with remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips, almonds and raisins.
  7. Pour into prepared baking pan and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until toothpick tests mostly dry. This is a very moist cake, so some crumbs will stick to toothpick when cake is done.
  8. Cook in pan for 5 minues.
  9. Run a thin knife around inside edges and invert onto cake rack to cool.

~ Notes

~ Prunes from Costco are very moist, almost wet. But if your prunes are the drier variety, use 1 3/4 cups of water to simmer prunes.

~ Pastry flour, with its lower gluten content, is preferred for tender cakes, but not available in Mexico unless you have a large supermarket that carries Bob’s Red Mill products. Most of us in Mexico will have to make do with regular flour, whole wheat or white.

~ For a gluten free cake, replace the wheat flour with Bob’s Red Mill 1 – 1 Baking Flour. According to Bob’s website, this flour can replace regular flour with an equal amount of Bob’s Red Mill 1 – 1 flour, cup per cup. I have not tried this, but it has very good reviews on Amazon.

© 2009-2020 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

All photos and text are copyright protected. Do not copy or reproduce without permission.

Tequila balls

Holiday food traditions are enduring and endearing, wherever we expats find ourselves in the world. The foods we associate with Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Ramadan follow us as we relocate, and keep the holidays normal and familiar. And boy, do we need a sense of normalcy this year. Here in Mexico, I still make treats at Christmastime that we enjoyed decades ago when we lived in the U.S., but ingedients not found in Mexico (or our little town of Mascota) have been swapped out for close substitutes. Pumpkin pie is now made with calabaza (Mexican winter squash); mincemeat pie filling is homemade, instead of from a Cross and Blackwell jar; and tequila balls, formerly known as rum balls, are moistened with our state of Jalisco’s renown tequila. I think it’s called being flexible, and expats learn to be good at that.

Graham crackers aren’t common in Mexico, if they even exist here at all. But Hony Bran crackers come pretty darn close. After twenty-two years living and cooking in Mexico, the taste of graham crackers has become a distant memory and Hony Bran fills the gap when a graham cracker pie crust is needed. Or tequila balls.

And then we moved to Mascota five years ago and discovered their two CBTa stores, retail outlets for locally made foods, like dairy products of all kinds, preserved fruit, coffee, and cookies galore. I don’t know how cookies came to be a Mascota thing, but locally made galletas (cookies) are in every little store. Galletas de avena y salvado (cookies with oats and wheat bran) are hearty cookies, not too sweet, that just taste like they have to be good for you. They even look healthy. With that kind of reasoning, we have no problem eating a lot of them. CBTa stands for Centro de Bachillerato Tecnologico Agropecuario, the name of Mascota’s technical high school that teaches trades. Don’t ask me why the “a” in CBTa is lower-case. Some things we gringos are not meant to know.

So tequila replaced rum, galletas de avena y salvado replaced Hony Bran, which had already replaced graham crackers, and tequila balls became a new Christmas treat in Mexico.

If you are in the U.S. or Canada, use graham crackers (or any other dry cookie). If you are in Mexico, use Hony Bran crackers. If you are my one reader in Mascota (hola, Maria!), use galletas de avena y salvado from the CBTa store.

This recipe was adapted from my tattered Joy of Cooking cookbook for “Rum Drops, Uncooked”. This recipe is so easy, your child or grandchild could help roll the balls. No baking required. Joy instructs us to let the balls ripen for 12 hours, to disperse the alcohol flavor, I guess. But with less than 1/2 teaspoon of tequila per ball, any lingering alcohol taste is not a problem for this alcohol abstainer. I suggest you ignore the final recipe instruction, as I do. It’s Christmas, after all!

And now, the popular request from last week’s post on Star Fruit Upside-down Cake. Well, requested twice.  “Would love a pic of your campesino tree”, in reference to our Christmas “tree” that’s really a dried flower stalk from the Blue Agave plant, the agave from which tequila is made. There are no green boughs or pine aroma in our house, but it’s our tree, and seems to have become an annual tradition for us, along with tequila balls. It’s only as I type this that I realize how the request for photos of the tequila Blue Agave “tree” nicely dovetails with the recipe for tequila balls.

The mother agave plant begins to die when it produces the flower stalk. But life continues when seed pods and plantlets fall to the ground. The photo on the right shows both still attached to our tree, adding its own decorations.

Feliz Navidad, dear readers. I appreciate each and every one of you. I wish you good times and good food with your loved ones. Safe holidays!

Tequila Balls

  • 2 cups (7 oz/200 g) graham cracker crumbs (use food processor or rolling pin to crush)
  • 1 cup (3.6 oz/104 g) finely chopped walnuts (use food processor, or knife)
  • 3/4 cup (2.6 oz/75 g) sifted confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar, or azúcar glass in Mexico)
  • 2 tablespoons sifted, unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 (22 ml) tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons (60 ml) tequila
  • Additional cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar to coat balls
  1. Thoroughly blend all dry ingredients.
  2. Warm honey and blend with tequila.
  3. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients for an evenly moist consistency. Mixture should clump together when squeezed in your hand.
  4. Roll into small balls. I formed balls about 20 grams in weight, for a diameter of 1 3/8″ (3.5 cm), but roll whatever seems the right size for you.
  5. Roll balls in cocoa powder and/or confectioner’s sugar.
  6. Store in an air-tight container for 12 hours “to ripen”.

© 2009-2020 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

All photos and text are copyright protected. Do not copy or reproduce without permission.

New World Chocolate Cake

It’s hard to imagine a world without chocolate or chile. We can thank the New World for giving us cocao pods, from which chocolate is made, as well as chiles of all kinds. This cake, so easy to make that even a baking novice would have success, is rich with chocolate and flavored with a subtle kick of ancho chile powder.

Ancho chiles are the dried form of fresh poblano chiles, the large, mild chile commonly used for chiles rellenos and chiles en nogada. Once dried, they take on a deep burgundy color and a complex, fruity flavor. I have become so enamored with ancho chile powder lately, that I’m adding it to to my morning cup of Pero, Russ’es glass of whipped dalgona coffee (which is having its moment), and a cream sauce tinted with light peach hues from the chile powder.

I know not everyone is a fan of chiles’ heat, but take my word that the pairing of chocolate and chile is a natural. If you are one of those who can’t handle chile, this still makes an excellent chocolate cake with the chile omitted, albeit, in my opinion, not the cake it would be with chile.

Use a very good quality cocoa powder. It makes a difference, as I finally learned when I gave Hershey’s the heave-ho after reading it was made with cocao beans harvested by child slave labor. Cocoa powder and other chocolate products labeled organic or fair trade indicate child slave labor was not used. Cocoa products so labeled are also a better quality, delivering a richer chocolate flavor. La Comer and Mega supermarkets in Mexico offer a good selection of organic products, including organic cocoa powder produced in Mexico.

New World Chocolate Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups/180 grams whole wheat flour or all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup/50 grams cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 2/3 cup/145 grams sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup room temperature coffee, or water
  • 5 tablespoons melted coconut oil, or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F/180C. Grease and flour sides of 9″/22 cm round cake pan. Line bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Sift or whisk dry ingredients in large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together wet ingredients.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry, and quickly stir until no lumps remain.
  5. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes. The top should spring back when lightly pressed. If the gently pressure of your finger in the center leaves an indentation, bake a few minutes more.
  6. Cool in pan until slightly warm. Run a thin knife around sides of pan, and invert cake onto a plate, then invert again right side up on serving plate.
  7. Serve when completely cool with lightly sweetened whipped cream dusted with cinnamon, ice cream, or crème fraîche (aka crema in Mexico).

Notes ~

For a coconut version, omit the chile powder and cinnamon. Generously coat the inside of the cake pan with coconut oil or butter, then coat the pan with dry, unsweetened coconut. Add 1/2 cup dry, unsweetened coconut to cake batter.

To slice cleanly, use the thinnest knife you have, sawing it slightly as you slice through the cake.

So what’s the deal with all the variations of how to spell chile? Chili is the bean and meat concoction, sometimes spelled chilli. Chile with an “e” is how the fruit (yes, botanically it’s a fruit) is spelled in the Spanish language, and since it originated in Latin America, that’s the accepted spelling.

Variations of this recipe have existed at least since WWII, when bakers made do with what was available. Without eggs and butter, this cake is vegan.

© 2009-2020 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

New World black bean brownies

It seems like every baker has joined the effort to turn out more bread, cookies, and muffins during these days of quarantine, and I’m doing my part. Black bean brownies have been on the horizon for some time. Beans? I was skeptical. I finally made them, and now I’m a believer. They are so good that I don’t see any reason to make traditional brownies any more.

Maybe it’s the richness and meatiness of black beans. Maybe it’s just the dark color. But they blend well with the chocolate. So well, they become lost in the mix, and can no longer be detected. My Chief Taster couldn’t tell the secret ingredient, and he can generally detect any flavor I throw at him.

Continuing the New World theme (see the recent recipe for New World Truffles), I added ancho chile powder and ground cinnamon. Black beans, cocoa powder and vanilla have their origins in the New World, as well. If you don’t like a little kick in your brownies, omit the chile. They will still be as rich and chocolatey as any brownie, plus they are gluten-free. If you can’t get black beans or ancho chile powder, see the substitution suggestions under notes at the end.

NEW WORLD BLACK BEAN BROWNIES

  • 1 15-oz./425 grams can of black beans, or 1 1/2 cups cooked beans, drained
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoon/40 grams melted coconut oil, or other mild tasting vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cups/75 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup/115 grams sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon if using unsalted beans)
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts for topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/176 C. Oil 8″/23 cm square baking pan, and cut parchment paper to fit bottom of pan.
  2. Puree beans in a food processor until smooth, adding a few tablespoons of bean liquid if necessary to make a smooth paste.
  3. Add eggs, oil, and vanilla, and blend until smooth.
  4. Combine dry ingredients in small bowl. Add to wet ingredients in food processor and blend well. The batter will be very thick.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle chopped nuts over top, pressing nuts lightly into batter.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, or until brownies test dry with a toothpick. Allow to cool completely before removing from pan and cutting into squares.

Notes ~

~ Substitutions: if black beans aren’t in your part of the world, try dark kidney beans instead. Even a lighter colored bean would be OK, if you didn’t mind lighter colored brownies. Substitute any chile powder for ancho chile powder. Use less than called for if you are using cayenne. For a chile flavor without the heat, try paprika.

~ Ancho chiles are dried poblano chiles, and one of the most commonly used dried chile in Mexico. A little fruity and sweet, they impart mild, flavorful heat.

~ When purchasing cocoa powder, look for the labels “Fair Trade” or “Organic” to be assured that child slave labor was not used in harvesting the cocao pods. The ubiquitous Hershey’s cocoa powder does not have these labels, and Hershey’s will not/can not say they don’t use child slave labor.

© 2009-2020 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED