Sugar and Spice

November 2021 View more

Photography by Neil John Burger
Food styling by Lissa Levy | Prop styling by Carol Prebil

Spicy Mexican Chocolate Cookie
Makes 1 dozen cookies

Yasmin Gutierrez
Chef partner at Beatrix
“Growing up, my mom always made hot chocolate and champurrado with abuelita, a traditional, cinnamon-infused chocolate commonly used in home cooking in Mexico. Inspired by the delicious taste, I replicated these flavors when creating the spicy Mexican chocolate cookie by using milk chocolate, cinnamon, and the addition of cayenne. I love this cookie because it stays soft and gooey inside, and has a spicy kick to it. Each bite reminds me of Mexico.”

Cookie Ingredients
½ cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cayenne, divided
½ cup + 2 teaspoons flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon cayenne until blended. Set aside for cookie dusting before baking.
3. In a saucepan or the microwave, heat the bittersweet chocolate until fully melted. Set aside to cool.
4. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, ¼ teaspoon cayenne, and salt until blended. Set aside.
5. Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until fluffy. Add in the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat for about 2 minutes, or until it is fully blended and a light color. Add eggs one at a time and beat well to incorporate. Continue to beat for 5 minutes until the mixture is pale and creamy.
6. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add in the melted bittersweet chocolate. Once fully mixed, turn the mixer off and remove bowl from mixer. Using a spatula, fold in the flour mixture and chopped milk chocolate.
7. Scoop dough onto parchment-lined sheet trays, then press down on each dough ball slightly and lightly coat with the sugar/cinnamon/cayenne cookie dusting. Bake for about 16 minutes, or until the tops are cracked and the center is still very soft. Allow cookies to cool completely, and enjoy!

Gingerbread Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Filling
Makes 2 dozen sandwich cookies

Erica Tomei
Baking and pastry instructor at College of DuPage and chef-owner of Twisted Classics food trailer
“I absolutely love this recipe and all the warmth it brings during the holiday season. All the spices packed in this recipe trigger so many senses, as the aromas of it baking fill the house. A wine that is a perfect match to these gingerbread whoopie pies is the A4 from Cooper’s Hawk. This white wine blend consists of Reisling, Pinot Gris, Muscat, and Gewürztraminer. It’s a slightly sweet wine with notes of baking spices, pear, and honey.”

Whoopie Pie Ingredients
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1¼ teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
½ cup molasses
¾ cup buttermilk
4 ounces white chocolate

Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients
12 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. For the whoopie pies, mix together all the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the brown sugar, about 3 to 4 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add molasses and buttermilk until just combined.
4. Scoop a tablespoon of mix on a parchment-lined sheet pan, leaving 2 inches between each, and bake cookies about 10 to 14 minutes, or until puffy and set. Let cool while making the filling.
5. For the cream cheese filling, cream together the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment until smooth. Add powdered sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and salt.
6. To assemble, flip half the baked gingerbread cookies upside down, then pipe about a tablespoon of filling on each. Top with another baked gingerbread cookie.
7. In a saucepan or the microwave, heat the white chocolate until fully melted. Drizzle the top of each whoopie pie with white chocolate.

Tip Whoopie pie cookies can be made one week in advance and frozen. Remove from freezer the day before serving, prepare the filling, and assemble.

Poached pears in Port wine with cardamom cake
Makes 6 servings

Carlos Loza
Pastry chef at My Chef
“Personally, this recipe is special because it takes me back to New York City, when I first started dating my wife. One day the pastry chef didn’t show up so I was asked to make some desserts—and I discovered my love for pastry cooking. When we moved here to Naperville, I enrolled at the French Pastry School of Chicago. I remember seeing a dessert with similar components being served in New York, and that memory inspired me to create this dessert.”

Cardamom Cake Ingredients
13/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1 egg
3/4 cup milk

Poached Pear Ingredients
6 whole pears, peeled (preferably Anjou pears, not too ripe)
1 bottle port wine (can substitute Cabernet Sauvignon)
4 cinnamon sticks (plus more for garnish)
4 juniper berries
3 star anise (plus more for garnish)
4 cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup spiced rum
1 cup sugar

Candied Orange Peel Ingredients
2 large oranges
4 cups sugar, divided
3 cups water

Honey Mascarpone Ingredients
2 cups mascarpone
1½ tablespoons honey

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. For the cardamom cake, grease a sheet pan with butter. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the butter, egg, and milk to the dry ingredients; stir until smooth. Pour batter into the sheet pan, and bake for approximately 30 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from the sheet pan.
3. For the poached pear, peel the pears and set aside. Put the rest of the ingredients in a pot and bring to boil; add pears and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir and move them often, to evenly cook all surfaces of the pears. Transfer everything in a container and let cool completely, before covering and refrigerating. Let the pear mixture sit in the fridge overnight.
4. For the candied orange peels, cut top and bottom off orange, then remove orange segments and cut peel into ¼-inch-wide strips. Cook in large pot of boiling water for 15 minutes, then drain. Bring 3 cups sugar and 3 cups water to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add peel and return to boil, then simmer at reduced heat for 45 minutes. Drain. Toss peel and 1 cup sugar on rimmed baking sheet, separating into strips. Let stand 1 to 2 days until coating is dry.
5. For the honey mascarpone, mix ingredients completely and place it in the fridge until needed.
6. To assemble, cut pears in half, core them, and set aside. Bring the remaining wine mixture to boil and simmer until it reduces to a syrup consistency. Use a cookie cutter or glass to cut the cake into circles. Pipe or dollop mascarpone honey on top of cake, then drizzle honey over the mascarpone. Place the pears and garnish plate with spices (cinnamon sticks and star anise) and candied orange peel.

Chai Espresso Latte Macarons
Makes 1 dozen macarons

Toni Marie Cox
Owner of Toni Patisserie and Café
“It combines two of our most popular drinks—espresso and chai tea—and presents them in a unique way as a macaron, one of our most popular sweets. We infuse the spices and espresso into buttercream, then sandwich the cream between two macaron shells. The brown and white swirled macaron shells create the latte visual.”

Shell Ingredients
4 ounces almond flour
6.5 ounces powdered sugar
2 large egg whites
Pinch cream of tartar
3 ounces granulated sugar brown liquid food coloring

Filling Ingredients
½ cup whole milk
3 Chai tea bags
1.5 ounces espresso, brewed
9 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. For the shells, sift together almond flour and powdered sugar; set aside. Using a beater, whip the egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar then slowly add sugar while whipping. Beat until stiff peaks form and egg whites are glossy, but not dry. With a rubber spatula, fold the almond mixture into the egg whites in three stages. Continue folding with a rubber spatula until glossy (about 25 to 30 turns). Divide the mixture into two separate bowls. In 1 bowl add a few drops of brown food color and mix until color is incorporated.
3. Prepare 2 sheet pans with parchment and fit a piping bag with a round tip. Fill one side of the piping bag with brown mixture and the other side with the plain. Pipe shells onto sheet pan in a circular motion to get a swirl effect of the two colors. Let piped shells sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes until they form a skin and are not sticky to touch.
4. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees, place sheet pans into oven, and leave oven door slightly ajar. Bake for approximately 14 minutes, until slightly firm when you touch the top of one and not leave an indentation. Let shells come to room temperature on sheet pans.
5. For the filling, place milk and tea bags in a small sauce pan and simmer, reducing the milk until a rich brown color. Remove from the heat and add espresso. Remove the tea bags and let the mixture come to room temperature.
6. Using a paddle attachment in a mixer, beat butter with 1½ cups of powdered sugar until creamy. Slowly add spiced milk, alternating with remaining powdered sugar, until buttercream comes together and is creamy and smooth.
7. Transfer buttercream into a piping bag and pipe a dollop of filling onto half of the shells, flat side up. Place another shell on top of each, pressing down just until the cream reaches the edge of each macaron.

Tip To achieve uniform sizing, try piping and baking on a macaron mat.

Optional Mix edible gold dust with a few drops of Vodka or other clear alcohol. Splatter filled macarons with the mixture.

Spiced Pumpkin Bars
Makes 35 Bars

Heather Young
Executive pastry chef at Elements at Water Street and Chef by Request
“I think the most enduring recipes are born out of love and probably passed down—out of love. This one is no different. My mom baked these spiced pumpkin bars for us as kids, and then taught me how to bake them. Over the years, and nearly every place I’ve worked, I’ve continually pushed the spice profile and added more moisture to it, and I am really happy with this current version.”

Bar Ingredients
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
15 ounces pumpkin puree
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cloves

Frosting Ingredients
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Splash of lemon juice

Spiced Pecan Ingredients
1 tablespoon water
1 egg white
3 cups pecan halves
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1½ teaspoons ground cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-by-6-inch pan.
2. For the bars, cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the pumpkin puree. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves into a separate bowl. Add the dry, sifted ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and stir. Spread evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Empty pan upside down onto cooling rack and allow to cool (whole) prior to frosting. While waiting for bars to cool, prepare pecans and frosting.
3. For the frosting, mix together the cream cheese and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. Gradually add in the sugar, salt, and lemon juice and beat until velvety smooth.
4. For the spiced pecans, foil and spray a baking sheet. Beat water and egg white until foamy and toss in pecan halves. Mix together the sugar and spices in a separate bowl, then fold into the pecan mixture. Spread onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes in your 350-degree oven, turning and rearranging pecans often.
5. To assemble, spread frosting over the cooled pumpkin bars. Add spiced pecan clusters on top, cut into squares and serve.