The world is filled with great, varied ethnic cuisines: a Mediterranean salad instantly conjures a different set of ingredients and flavors from an Asian salad. A Hungarian stew is completely unlike an Indian stew.
However, regional or ethnic naming has also been picked up in marketing and recipe making as a shorthand for minor variations on dishes. My classic example is that a “California” sandwich or omelette just means that it has avocado.
Of course, this can lead to some even more specific stereotypes about what a given cuisine is, which leads back to the recipe of the day. I received this recipe for “Mexican Spiced” cookies from a Canadian coworker: what does “Mexican” mean in Canada?
I started on my double-boiler again: we received it several years ago, but I only used it for the first time on the white chocolate cookies a few weeks ago. This recipe mixes melted chocolate into the dough for a double-chocolate effect.
The dough itself is largely standard: cream together softened butter and white and brown sugar. I unfortunately was just a bit short on brown sugar and had to substitute for it. Bravetart has a wonderful article on just this point, but I also got a good tip to use molasses to compensate.
After the eggs came the first potential “Mexican” flavor with instant coffee. Interestingly, the recipe called for the instant coffee to be dissolved in a teaspoon of vanilla. I was skeptical, but it instantly turned to liquid and poured nicely into the dough.
The melted chocolate went in next. I don’t remembering having melted chocolate for cookie dough before, so I was a little worried that it would have hardened, but it wasn’t a problem at all.
Next came the other “Mexican” ingredients: cinnamon (not so strange) and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper. It’s definitely not a lot, but spice in a cookie might go a long way.
The recipe wasn’t specific on the dough ball size: it only said “drop dough by the spoonful.” Of course, I went back to my usual technique of doing it by mass since the recipe said it made 48 cookies. Clearly something went wrong, though, because I ended up with 76 cookies instead of 48.
I didn’t realize this for quite awhile, however, so I happily baked away undersized cookies for the full duration.
I included a little experiment in this batch as well. This recipe wasn’t particularly finicky, but others can be specific about whether to bake one or two sheets at a time. With one sheet, it often says “lower middle” rack. When it’s two sheets at a time, it always specifies that you should rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back half way through.
This advice is presumably intended to average out the hot and cold spots in an oven, but I wondered whether it actually made a difference in a modern oven: is the top really much different from the bottom?
I considered baking two consecutive batches on different racks, but I figured that would introduce more variables for rest time and general baking, so instead, I just baked two at once and didn’t rotate.
After cooling, I offered up the cookies for tasting. Among four testers, we actually all agreed that the bottom rack cookies were a little crunchier around the edges. Otherwise, they were both totally fine, and the difference in texture wasn’t noticeable after a few days.
Of course, all ovens are different, but if your oven is like mine, you’re fine not to rotate top to bottom, especially if you want to serve a variety of textures. Or if you want uniform cookies, rotate away: it isn’t much effort.
The cayenne pepper adds a noticeable little kick to the aftertaste. I probably wouldn’t have picked it out as cayenne if I didn’t know, but I think I liked it. Even though there was more cinnamon, I didn’t notice it as much.
So if you’re interested in what Canadians think counts as Mexican, you can find the recipe here.