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Chilies spice up (ai-yi-yi-yi-yi) chocolate chip cookies


Take a walk on the wild side with homemade Chocolate & Chilie Cookies.

They start, of course, with theobromas (food of the gods), better known as chocolate. Chocolate was the favored drink of the Aztecs, who believed it had aphrodisiac properties.

To spice things up, I add a shot of ground chilie pepper.

So there's no mistake: I'm talking about ground peppers, not chili powder, which contains other spices than peppers. I'm talking about the mature capsicum or pepper, harvested, dried and ground into a rich full-flavored compound.

Adding the ground peppers to the chocolate gives these cookies a warm finish or sensuous bite. The first cookie may surprise you with a little glow of heat, but the flavors quickly become addictive.

The ground peppers alone could overpower, but combined with the chocolate, sugar and butter, they are more subdued.

Add the recommended amount of ground peppers to the cookie batter. Test-bake one cookie and allow to cool. Taste the cookie. If you prefer a hotter cookie, add more to the batch and test again. Bake the entire batch once you're satisfied with the heat level.

Some peppers are much hotter than others, so be selective. The proper names relate to the pepper variety used. Paprika, also ground peppers, may be substituted.

Chocolate & chilie cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks)

1 cup light brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated white sugar

2 whole eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Ground chilie peppers (not chili powder, which contains spices other than peppers) to taste: 2 tablespoons for mild, 3 tablespoons for warm, 4 tablespoons for hot

3 cups chocolate chunks or chips

1 cup pine nuts, optional

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl combine the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat until smooth and light.

In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and powdered peppers. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the batter. Beat by hand until just combined and smooth.

Form the cookies into 2-inch balls and place on a buttered cookie sheet. Bake on the lower rack of the oven until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan while hot.

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