Friday, August 1, 2014

Mocha Spice Blend and Cookies

When I mixed up my unusual CMR Spice Blend, I was also playing with an idea for another spice blend. It sort of got put on hold for a time, but I finally put it together a couple of weeks back. Again, though the spice mixture was made, I didn't get around to doing anything with it until yesterday. 

Mocha Spice Cookies I


I called the mixture Mocha Spice, because 2 of the main components are coffee and cocoa. The other ingredients are cinnamon, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns (which are not even a relative of pepper). The mixture smells wonderful, and my thought was to make my recipe for Hermit cookies, substituting the Mocha Spice Blend for all of the spices and the coffee in that recipe. I figured that since the cookies originally called for coffee, this mixture should work well. I did a 1:1 swap for the total amount of the spices in the recipe and made the cookies last evening. This is the original Hermit cookie recipe, before changes:

Hermits

Hermit Cookies
Hermits
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

½ cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg

2 tablespoons water
1½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
½ teaspoon soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ cup raisins
½ cup walnuts, broken

Thoroughly cream the shortening and sugar. Add egg; beat well. Mix the instant coffee into the 2 tablespoons water, then add to the creamed mixture. Sift together the dry ingredients and add in slowly until combined. Stir in raisins and nuts. Drop from teaspoon, or small cookie scoop, about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Bake in a 375 oven for 10 minutes.

NOTES: These can be iced with an icing of choice, or a glaze type icing. For the glaze, use 1½ cups confectioners' sugar, a pinch of salt, ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Add in water or milk, one tablespoon at a time, stirring very thoroughly before adding more. It is deceptive at first, and you may not need much more than another tablespoon or so. If the cookies are baked as individual cookies, dip the tops into the glaze, then set to dry. If using the "Busy-Mom-Method" just spread the glaze over the hot cookie straight from the oven. Slice when cool.


Clockwise from left: coffee, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa, Szechuan peppercorns


Today, I took the new version (below) to a luncheon, asking everyone who tasted them to tell me what, precisely, they tasted of spices. One person said ginger. Which, since there was no ginger at all, made me wonder how that flavor seemed to dominate, because I could certainly taste that also. Cinnamon was mentioned and clove. No one caught any kind of hint of coffee or cocoa, and much less the Szechuan pepper.

The cookies were fabulous, don't misunderstand me. The flavors were perfect for a spice cookie. The only problem was that nothing outside of cinnamon and clove was noticeable. My next thought was to come home and revise the Mocha Spice Blend. I doubled the amount of coffee, tripled the cocoa, left the cinnamon amount the same, decreased the cloves by 1/2 and doubled the Szechuan peppercorns. Just on a straight taste test on the tip of my finger, the bitterness of coffee and cocoa are much more apparent. I still do not taste the Szechuan peppercorns. I am tempted in add in some more cloves, but will refrain until I taste this mixture in a recipe. Once baked, the flavors may well change. 

Mocha Spice Blend I

Mocha Spice Blend I

makes about 1/4 cup

2 tablespoons coffee beans
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cassia cinnamon 
20 whole cloves
1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns

In a spice grinder, coffee grinder used only for spices or in a small Bullet type blender with the blade for dry ingredients, grind the coffee beans, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns to a fine powder. Add this to the cinnamon and cocoa on a bowl and mix well to distribute all spices equally. Place in a glass jar with tight-fitting lid and store in a cool, dark place.

Mocha Spice Blend II

makes just over 1/2 cup

Mocha Spice Blend II
4 tablespoons coffee beans
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cassia cinnamon
10 whole cloves
2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns

In a spice grinder, coffee grinder used only for spices or in a small Bullet type blender with the blade for dry ingredients, grind the coffee beans, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns to a fine powder. Add this to the cinnamon and cocoa on a bowl and mix well to distribute all spices equally. Place in a glass jar with tight-fitting lid and store in a cool, dark place.

I have a whole jar of egg whites in the fridge, so I want to make an angel food cake. I am going to use Mocha Spice Blend II in the cake and see how it comes out. Meanwhile, here is the recipe for the Mocha Spice Cookies:

 

Mocha Spice Cookies

makes 40 - 50 cookies
Mocha Spice Cookies I

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons Mocha Spice Blend (either will work)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup raisins, optional
1/2 cup walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 on Convection Bake). 

Cream together the shortening and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and water; beat well to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, Mocha Spice, baking soda and salt. Add these dry ingredients and beat to just combine. Add the raisins and nuts and mix well. Drop the dough from a spoon, or use small cookie scoops. Keep the cookies at least 2-inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until set and browned.

Another thought came to me when musing on the spices and amounts used in the Spice blends. I used a good Cassia cinnamon in the blend, which is the most commonly sold cinnamon in the US. True cinnamon, cinnamomum verum, is used in many countries around the world and has a lighter flavor with a hint of citrus. True cinnamon is the soft-quilled variety found in any Mexican grocery. These true cinnamon quills are easily crumbled and can be added to the coffee beans, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns when grinding the whole spices. If using whole true cinnamon (often named Ceylon cinnamon), I would use about 2-inches of the quill. 

All these are ideas I have for the future. For now, I have Mocha Spice Blend II already made, and will be experimenting with more uses, soon.



My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies. 

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