Chocolate Chilli Shortbread
Today was the coldest day of the year so far in Melbourne. It actually snowed in the outer suburbs and most of the countryside, which is a pretty rare occurance. Sure, we have mountains in Australia with ski resorts, but they're about 3 hours drive from Melbourne, and many Melbourne kids never see snow except on tv and books. Many people are surprised to discover that there is cold weather and snow in Australia; yep, most definitely. It's not all surfing and stubbies down here!
It was snowing down to sea level over the surfing towns of Lorne and Torquay, and there was hope that the CBD would get a taste. Sadly not, but the day was just icy. Walking to my car this evening, I felt needles of ice in my nose and my lungs were in great protest. My mum went up to Mt Buller this morning to spend a few days with my brother who's working on the ski fields this winter. They had their best snowfalls of the season just as she was tackling the mountain, so she's going to have a great holiday. I love it! Finally I have the winter weather I was looking forward to so much!
So, in acknowledgement of cold, cold weather, here is a hot, spicy biscuit. These are the Mexican chocolate icebox cookies that Nic posted about a few weeks ago. I was really interested by them, and as chocolate and chilli is all the rage at the moment, thought they'd be a good little fashion item. Thing is, I really liked them, so I'll be keeping them in the repertoire! Icebox cookies, where you roll the dough into a log and freeze it, before cutting off slices to bake, seem to be a uniquely American idea, and I've never seen a recipe for such a thing before. They're a great idea, and you can have fresh baked biscuits in a few minutes, if guests arrive (my god, that sounds like something straight out of Women's Weekly).
Nic's recipe, from Maida Heatter -who I'd never heard of until Cathy's quest to bake every biscuit recipe of hers this year-, includes cayenne pepper, which I didn't have, so I subbed chilli powder. Wow - what a hit. 1/2 a teaspoon doesn't sound like much, but gives a real kick. Combined with the black pepper and cinnamon, these are really spicy. The texture is really soft, a bit like a shortbread and really yummy. Rolling the dough into two 9 inch logs did make me smirk. We don't use inch measurements in Australia, so I was left thinking 'what's 9 inches? What's something that's 9 inches long?.........oh. Ahem. Ok...........yeah, that looks about right!' ;-) *snort*. There should be lots of very happy men out there if that's what I'm thinking!
I think the ideal way of serving ice box cookies is as an icecream sandwich. I served them on their own at a party, which was still nice, but I do think they'd be better sandwiching some type of filling. The soft doughiness and spiciness might be a bit much. Obviously, it's not icecream sandwich season down here, so I sandwiched the one above with *gasp*....Philadelphia Extra Light Cream Cheese. Yes, turn your backs and shun me from the True Foodie Community now, but it actually worked really well! The smooth, light tanginess of the cheese worked well with the soft, sweet, spiciness of the biscuits. And they just perfectly complement a steaming hot cup of tea on a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon by the open fire.
Read on for the recipe:
Chocolate Chilli Shortbread
Converted and adapted from Maida Heatter's Mexican Chocolate Icebox cookies
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground chilli powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
170g butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Sift together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, chilli, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in vanilla extract and egg. Gradually add flour mixture until dough is uniform in color and no unmixed flour remains.
Shape in two 23 cm long logs and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or foil. Make sure your wrapping is airtight.
Freeze overnight or up to 6 weeks.
When ready to use, preheat your oven to 190C and bake for 8-10 minutes. Cookies should feel a bit firm at the edges. Store in an airtight container when cool.
Makes ~4 dozen