I Don't Pay This Much to Go Camping (Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Growing up in the great Northern state of Wisconsin, I'm all too familiar with the concept of camping.

Coupled with fact that I have two younger brothers who not only were in Scouts but also who made it to the elevated level of Order of the Arrow (something akin to being knighted, I think, in boy-land), I'd like to think that if I ever accidentally got lost in the woods while looking for a shoe sale somewhere, I'd have a fighting chance of staying alive until someone realized that I was missing and found me.

I know how to tell time, and how much daylight is left, by the sun and the 'ol fingers-on-the-horizon method.  I know how to estimate weather based on how high the birds are flying and the type of cloud cover.  I can find north with a compass, or by looking at which side of the trees the moss is growing.  I know how to make an impromptu shelter out of sticks, piled boughs, and leaves that wouldn't win me any awards for architecture but would at least keep me warm at night.   I can even, if forced to, bait my own hook.

... what, don't you carry an emergency fishing pole with you at all times, too?

But all of that assumes one thing: that I'm fighting for survival.   Voluntarily putting myself in the middle of the woods for the sake of fun?  Nuh uh.  No way.  Been there, done that, got the bug bites (and the conviction that camping is not for me).   Which is why the last two days have been interesting, to say the least.    Here's a quick recap:

Tuesday:  Notified by the apartment complex that we will have NO WATER all day.  No water means no shower.  No toilet.  No cooking.

Today:  Wake up to NO POWER.  IN JANUARY.  IN THE FROZEN NORTH.  A.k.a., no cooking, no lights... NO HEAT.

Seriously, people.
I don't pay this much money for rent to go camping.

I've tried to be positive about the whole thing, though,  Tuesday I scheduled coffee/tea and girl time with my friend Gaby (see: Arepas) and ran as many errands as I could cram into the rare day when I had the car.   Wednesday I tried turning the shower in the bathroom on as hot as it could get, lighting some candles (since we have no windows in there), and spending as much time as possible in the small space pretending I was at a spa or sauna until steam inhalation drove me back into the main room.  Then I threw on as many layers as I could possibly fit on my body, piled the blankets on top of me, and tried to use this as an experience in gratitude since there are a lot of cold people in the world who don't have the luxury of extra clothes, blankets, or dorky fuzzy socks.

Dorky fuzzy socks.  One of the top ten best inventions ever.  

And now?  We have water, and heat, for the time being.  But I'm looking ahead to tomorrow and wondering what's going to be next.   I think the only thing left at this point is... a wall caving in or something.  (Which I am NOT advocating, so stay away, fate, I'm not tempting you!)

I'm celebrating my return to civilization by digging out a recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate cookies that I had seen a while ago and wanted to try.  Because after spending the past eight hours without any heat whatsoever, any recipe with "Hot Chocolate" in it is an instant winner.  

The result? A lighter chocolate cookie with a crispy outer shell and a chewy interior, with a lovely sugar coating that gives it its sweetness (and a tiny little zing thanks to the Chili powder and Cinnamon).  You can add more or less chili powder depending on how much spiciness you like, or even omit it completely if you're not a fan since the cinnamon also adds a hint of flavor.    They keep well in an airtight container for up to a week, though the flavor of the chili and cinnamon mellows out the longer you store them.  

I made a few changes to mine - I used real Dark Cocoa instead of the normal, lighter baking cocoa, and doubled the amount of rolling sugar because I always end up running out about halfway through. I used the amount of chili powder in the original recipe, but would probably increase it next time since it does tend to fade pretty quickly as they sit.    The dough itself is a wet dough, so I'd recommend chilling it for 30 min or so if you have the time, though it's not necessary... you'll just end up with a bit more dough on your fingers after rolling them in the sugar.   


So whether you're celebrating your own  return-of-municipal-services, trying to warm up on a chilly day, or just feel like making something warm and chocolate, these little beauties will certainly fit the bill.   Or if your power is out, you can come over to my place and we'll make them together. 

I have blankets.
And cookies.
And sugar. 

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

·         2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
·         1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
·         2 teaspoons cream of tartar
·         1 teaspoon baking soda
·         1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
·         1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
·         2 cups sugar
·         2 large eggs
·         4 teaspoons cinnamon
·         1 teaspoon chile powder (optional)

1.       Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down side of bowl. Add eggs and beat to combine. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat until combined.
2.      In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon, and chile powder (if using). Using heaping tablespoons, form balls of dough and roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place, about 3 inches apart, on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are set in center and begin to crack, about 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cookies cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. (Store in an airtight container, up to 1 week.)

Redhead note:  Do not overbake!  You'll want to take the cookies out when they're slightly soft-set in the center, since they'll continue to cook as they cool on the cookie sheet.  For my oven that was at 8 minutes (mine runs hot.  Like me.  (Sorry, couldn't resist...)).    

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2 Responses to “I Don't Pay This Much to Go Camping (Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies)”

  1. northern wisconsin? whereabouts? my husband's parents have a house on pelican lake near antigo and we're up there whenever we can find some time to getaway :) ooooh, and props to you - celebrating your victory over the apartment-mess with some hot chocolate :)

  2. Hi Jennifer! They live on Island Lake, part of the Chain of Lakes. I've heard about Pelican Lake and driven by there before -such a beautiful area! I hope you and your family (soon to be 3!) get some time to get up there and relax as warmer weather heads our way...eventually. :)