Mexican Hot Chocolate Balls are a variation of the popular snowball Christmas cookies, which are sometimes called Russian teacakes or Polish wedding cookies. Once I made these cookies for the first time about five years ago, I decided to adopt a new tradition.
I don’t say this lightly. These are amazing cookies. The name doesn’t lie. Bite into one and your mouth is full of the flavor of hot cocoa. The recipe calls for confectioners’ sugar, rather than granulated, which results in a tender cookie. I put my own spin on this recipe by adding a small amount of dark chocolate chips and cayenne pepper.
Mexican hot chocolate often has a spicy nip and that’s why the cayenne works so well here. There’s just a bit in the dough, not enough to make people reach for water but enough to give a slight after-tingle. Watch someone eat one and notice how she cocks her head a bit. The heat is a sweet gift, and optional, of course.
Even though the cookies are rolled in a combination of confectioners’ sugar, cinnamon and cocoa powder, they still freeze well. Roll them in the sugar-powder-spice mix after they are cooled completely. If you do this while the cookies are warm, the coating disappears into the cookies and you don’t get the snowy effect.
I brought these cookies to a meeting this week and afterward someone confessed quietly, “I ate three.” Only three? Such resolve.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1¼ cups confectioners' sugar, divided use
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, divided use
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
- 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided use
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips
- ½ cup toasted pecans, finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in ½ cup confectioners' sugar, ¼ cup cocoa powder and vanilla until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer; stir in the remaining flour, cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, chocolate chips and pecans.
- Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to wire racks and cool completely.
- Combine remaining ¾ cup confectioners' sugar, ¼ cup cocoa powder and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Roll cooled cookies in the sugar mixture.