Paleo Spicy Chocolate Cookies
Grain, gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free
The weather is starting to change in Boston. In the morning, I need to put on a sweater and the leaves are starting to fall. While some might be mourning the end of summer, I am bursting with excitement for fall. I am a fall baby and love when the air turns crisp and it is time for wooly socks and warm drinks. Hello hot cocoa weather.
I remember the first time that I had a really good hot chocolate. I am not talking about the instant hot chocolate powder stuff. What I am talking about is chocolate melted into milk. It is basically like a drinkable chocolate sauce. Also, it was not just hot in temperature but hot in terms of spice. This hot chocolate, sipped on the streets of Mexico City, was sweet, but then a subtle tingle of spicy heat in the back of my palate. It woke up that flavor of the chocolate.
That experience is what I am trying to recreate with these cookies. We all love a chocolate chip cookie. A double chocolate cookie? Even. Better. A double chocolate cookie that has a hint of spice? Yes, please.
So let’s talk about these cookies.
I could go on and on about how much I love tahini in baked goods, but I will try to keep it brief. In this recipe, I tried a few different versions: almond butter, cashew butter and tahini based. All were delicious, but there was something about the tahini batch that just seemed to taste the best. The slight savoriness of the tahini works well with the sweetness and spice in these cookies.
I like to use a runnier tahini (Soom Foods is my preferred brand) because it is easier to work with. If you don’t like tahini or don’t have it, almond butter also works (just use unsalted!).
Something about spiced treats signals the start of fall to me. While I do eat cinnamon in my breakfast all year round, it is only during the fall that I love to pair it with other warming spices for a seasonal treat. I don’t know if I will ever be able to figure out exactly what spices were put in that magical hot chocolate that I had in Mexico, but I tried to get as close to it as possible.
First, the base is cinnamon. On its own, it is fine, but we want some depth to that warm tingle of spice. Ginger gives a floral heat. Have you ever eat raw ginger? At first you get this sweet, floral taste and then you feel the heat up into your sinuses (depending on how much you ate). I wanted to capture that first half of the experience so I used half the amount of cinnamon. Cinnamon and ginger are a match made in heaven. The last member of these spices is Chili powder.
I used red New Mexico Hatch chili pepper powder for two reasons. It has a vegetal, earthy heat. Cinnamon and ginger can lean more towards the sweet end of the spectrum; by adding the more savory hatch chili pepper to the mix you get a more balanced heat. I also just like that with the hatch chili it is a mild enough spice that it does not overwhelm the flavor of the cookie base.
If you cannot find hatch chili pepper powder, no worries, use chili powder or cayenne pepper.
I have three brands of dark chocolate that I love and always at hand: Taza Chocolate, Hu Kitchen and Valrhona. Taza Chocolate is the one that use most frequently in baking since it has the best chocolate flavor (in my opinion). Their regular bars are sweetened with organic cane sugar, which is not hunky dory on the paleo diet. However….
Taza recently came out with a paleo chocolate slab, studded with raw almonds. It is my obsession. First, who does not love a slab of chocolate. Second, the chocolate taste exactly like the regular cane sugar sweetened version of Taza. I chopped up the big slab (tip: always use chopped chocolate, not chips. You will see/taste a difference in your cookies) and used it in this recipe. My favorite part of it: the chunks stayed soft even after the cookies had cooled.
Taza sweetens with organic coconut sugar so you do get the same amount of sweetness in the regular 70% bar. For this recipe, I left out the almond that come on the bar, but you can certainly add them in for crunch.
If you don’t want to special order chocolate, then use what Paleo chocolate you have or can find. Whole Foods carries some options
4oz (about 1/2 cup) Tahini
1/2oz (1tbsp) olive oil
2oz (1/4 cup) maple syrup
2oz (about 1/3 cup) coconut sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp warm water
1/4 cup + 2tbp (1.5oz) almond flour
1/4 cup (.5oz) cocoa powder
2 tsp tapioca flour
1tbsp flax meal
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Pinch ground cayenne pepper (I used red New Mexico Hatch Chili powder, but cayenne works too)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup Taza Paleo Chocolate slab, chopped up
Flaky sea salt for topping
In a small bowl, sift the cocoa powder; add the almond flour, tapioca flour, flax meal, spices, baking soda and salt. Whisk together, making sure to get out any lumps of almond flour. Add the chocolate chunks and toss to coat.
In a large bowl on a zeroed kitchen scale, measure out the tahini, olive oil, maple syrup, coconut sugar. Whisk together until smooth. Add the vanilla and water and whisk again until the water is fully incorporated.
Add the almond-cocoa powder mixture to the wet ingredients, stir until almost fully combined. Now comes the chocolate, add and continue to mix until the flours are incorporated and chocolate is dispersed. Cover the dough and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Using a 1.5 tablespoon cookie scoop to dollop dough onto the baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each. Top each with flaky sea salt.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes; let cool for 20 minutes before enjoying with a tall glass of almond milk. Or hot chocolate if you want to double down on chocolate.