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.

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.