Published: 6-12-2010, 14:22

Mexican Chocolate Snowballs


¾ cup blanched slivered almonds
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional (see Note)
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus about 1¼ cups for coating the cookies
large egg yolk
teaspoon pure vanilla extract
NOTE: Don’t substitute what is sold as “chili powder” because this is a blend containing other spices and garlic.

These treats belong to the crumbly melt-in-your-mouth cookie family, whose members include the variously named wedding cookies, snowballs, and butterballs. The big difference is that these tender gems are made of chocolate. Their flavor is bittersweet, an exotic blend of cocoa, cinnamon, toasted almonds, and a dash of cayenne pepper.

PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
SPREAD the almonds on a small baking sheet and toast in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until golden. Transfer them to a cutting board; when cool enough to handle, chop fine. Maintain the oven temperature.
WHISK together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne pepper, if using, in a medium bowl.
USING an electric mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl until creamy. Add ½ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and beat until fully blended. Beat in the egg yolk, then the vanilla. With the beaters on low speed, mix in the flour mixture until fully incorporated. Mix in the almonds.
DROP the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto the prepared sheets, arranging about 1½ inches apart. Bake for 15 to 16 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking, or until the tops are semifirm to the touch but the inside still feels tender. Carefully transfer the cookies to a rack to cool for 5 minutes.
PLACE the remaining 1¼ cups of confectioners’ sugar in a shallow bowl. While the cookies are still warm, gently roll them in the sugar, then transfer them to a rack to cool. Just before serving or storing, recoat the cookies with sugar.
STORE, layered between sheets of wax paper, in an airtight container for up to 10 days; or freeze for up to 2 months.