As a native Southern Californian, I’m almost ashamed that I hadn’t even heard of Mexican hot chocolate until a few years ago. And even more embarrassing is the fact that I only “discovered” it when I saw a round hot chocolate tablet at a bougie bakery and wondered what it was. If you’ve never tried it, Mexican hot chocolate is a rich, complex, decadent drink made with chocolate, sugar, cinnamon, and sometimes spices and nuts.
I might be a little obsessed with the flavor profile, and I have made Mexican hot chocolate brownies, drop cookies, and cake. So I knew I had to come up with a recipe for a shortbread cookie. I incorporated salt and pepper, ancho chili powder, cinnamon, and good Valrhona cocoa powder into these addicting little cookies. Ancho chili has an earthy and smoky flavor, and is low on the spice index. If you want more of a spicy kick, you can add some cayenne pepper.
I feel like a cookie sommelier when I describe the flavor of these cookies — first it just tastes like a rich dark chocolate cookie, and then you taste the cinnamon, then you notice the earthiness of the ancho chili and pepper, and the flavor profile is finished with a hint of spiciness. Not “melt-your-face-off” spicy, but when you breathe out, you get a little tingle of spiciness on your tongue.
These are definitely my absolute favorite cookies I’ve ever made, and I could stop eating them when I was testing out the recipe.
Are these technically shortbread or sugar cookies?
They’re kind of both. It’s fine to call these either “decorated sugar cookies” or “decorated shortbread cookies.” But I’m going to refer to any of my cookie recipes that can used as a base for cookie decorating as “shortbread sugar cookies.”
- 2 parts flour to 1 part fat
- No eggs
- No leavening agent
- Dense and crispy
- 3 parts flour to 2 parts fat
- Contains eggs
- Contains a leavening agent
- Light and Chewy
All of my shortbread sugar cookie recipes don’t rise or spread, can be used for cookie decorating, have egg, but no leavening agent, and have a 2 ¼ parts flour to 1 part fat. Which makes them fall somewhere between a shortbread and a sugar cookie. They’re both shortbread and sugar cookies, and neither shortbread or sugar cookies, at the same time. They’re Shrodinger’s cookies!
All of my shortbread sugar cookie recipes can be used for slice-and-bake cookies as well!
If you would like more info on my preferred ingredient brands, tips and tricks, FAQs, and a little cookie science, I cover all of that in my No-Spread Lemon Shortbread Sugar Cookie Recipe.
Mexican Hot Chocolate Shortbread Sugar Cookies
- measuring spoons and cups
- mixing bowls
- cling wrap
- cookie cutters
- large knife
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup good cocoa powder Valrhona if available
- 1-2 teaspoons ancho chili powder* optional
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- *If you’re not into spicy, you can add less chili powder, or omit it entirely. If you want cookies with more spice, try adding ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
- Whisk dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and spices) together and set aside.
- Cream butter and sugars with paddle attachment, on medium-low speed, until fluffy and pale in color (about 5 minutes).
- Add egg and extracts and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Scrape down the paddle with a spatula, and then continue to mix on low speed for another 30 seconds to ensure everything is fully incorporated.
- Add dry ingredients, all at once, and mix on low speed just until dough starts to come together and no dry bits remain. Do not overmix.
- Turn dough out onto cling wrap, tightly wrap, and refrigerate overnight (or for at least 4 hours).
- Knead, roll, cut out cookies, and return to fridge or freezer until firm. Leave a couple inches between cookies.
- Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes, rotate pan, and bake for another 1-5 minutes until edges are starting to turn golden brown.
- Remove cookies from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet before handling.
- Chocolate cookies are a little harder to tell when the edges are darkening, so you can quickly and gently press on the center of a cookie, and if they feel firm, they’re done. If you leave a dent, or they feel squishy, let them bake for a little longer.
- Ancho chili has an earthy and smoky flavor, and is low on the spice index. If you want more of a spicy kick, you can add ½-1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
- The reason for adding 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch to your dough is to prevent your cookies from shrinking or spreading during baking.
- If making slice-and-bake cookies, split dough in half, roll into logs, wrap tightly in cling wrap or parchment paper, and refrigerate before slicing and baking.