If you want bake up a treat that truly expresses your romantic intentions this Valentine’s Day, forget about all the pink stuff and make your Valentine a batch of these deep dark Smoldering Hearts…with a hint of cayenne and a dash of hot smokey paprika they leave an intriguing little after burn on your tongue and definitely send the I’ve got the hots for you message.
Cayenne chili powder is baked right into this cookie’s intensely chocolatey shortbread dough — It’s not overpowering, there’s just a touch, but it gives a pleasant background note of heat. As always, there’s nothing stopping you from increasing the amount for a more fiery effect.
I topped the baked cookies with a thick layer of pure melted dark chocolate and a sprinkle of hot smoked paprika. I wasn’t sure about the smoked paprika, but one taste told me I had a winner. The effect is surprising and delicious. Chocolate and spice is a natural combination that’s been enjoyed for centuries in Mexico and South America, we’re just a little slow to catch on up north. Instead of simply adding more cayenne on top of the cookie, the paprika adds that smoldering quality.
The cookies are so dark because I used an ‘extra dark’ or ‘Dutch’ processed cocoa powder. I like the rich color it gives the dough, and I think it tastes even more chocolatey. Look for it with the other cocoa powders in your store, I usually buy Hershey’s Special Dark, but King Arthur Flour makes a Black Cocoa powder that I’m dying to try, too.
If you don’t happen to have a heart shaped cookie cutter, don’t worry, use a round one, the message will still get through loud and clear!
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1/2 cup dark cocoa powder (I like Hershey's Extra Dark)
- 1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper (use less or more to taste)
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups dark chocolate, in bar form, or dark chocolate chips (that's sweetened chocolate, not unsweetened)
- hot smoked paprika
- set oven to 350F
- Cream the butter with the sugar and cocoa powder until smooth.
- Beat in the cayenne pepper.
- Mix in the flour until completely combined. Form the dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for an hour.
- Roll out the dough to about 1/4 to 1/3 inch and cut into heart shapes.
- Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake for about 10-12 minutes. The cookies may be soft when you pull them out of the oven but will firm up as they cool.
- Cool the cookies before frosting them.
- Melt the chocolate in a glass microwave safe bowl. If you are using bar chocolate, chop it in small pieces first. Start with one minute, then stir. Microwave for another 30 seconds and stir again, until all the chocolate is melted and smooth. If you need to, microwave in very short bursts until all the chocolate is melted.
- Spread a layer of chocolate over the surface of each cookie, and sprinkle with smoked paprika while the chocolate is still warm.
If you’re going to go a courtin’, arm yourself with the real deal… dark, almost black chocolate cookies that melt in your mouth, and a surprise shot of hot chili pepper…trust me, your Valentine won’t stand a chance :)
more dark chocolate…