Halloween Chocolate Fire Cookies

Happy Halloween! This was the first year since 2011, when I created a deadmau5 head, that I decided to get into the holiday. This was largely in part because I had an event to go to in costume with enough advanced notice to prepare. Naturally, this event was at the rock climbing gym. Being known there for my cookie sharing, I thought it would be clever to somehow incorporate cookies into my costume, which was none other than Carmen Sandiego. If you’re not familiar, she is a video game villain of the 90’s who stole world treasures and monuments. The player’s goal was to catch her with impossible-for-10-year-old-me clues about the country she was hiding in. Her popular tagline is “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?”

It was a simple costume to put together with a bit of  Amazon searching, and it had the added bonus that I shared the character’s name. But how to make it interesting? Since Carmen’s game was world travel, why not get a world map tote and fill it with country facts? Because that’s lame…so were born cookie countries! Each cookie was individually wrapped and labeled with a country, its location, population, and a fun fact. Hello, best interactive costume award…free cookies usually are a hit around there. But as it was Halloween, I thought I would switch it up to go with the trick or treatedness of the holiday. I decided to add some *cayenne pepper* to the chocolate cookies I made for the occasion. I wasn’t expecting the pepper to go over as well as it did (this is not to say I wanted people to dislike them!). It takes at least 7 seconds for the heat to kick in, so first impressions would likely be positive and without heat detection. However, to my amazement, friends and strangers were pleasantly surprised by the late kick, and I was impressed. Growing up in a West African household, I was subjected to dishes engulfed in the flames of Scotch bonnets and other healthily fiery spices, so I would say that my tolerance for heat is higher than that of the average American. After sampling the cookies, I became concerned for my climbing comrades and their palates. Turns out there was nothing to be afraid of. On top of that, the cookies passed the melt-in-your-mouth test, and people learned stuff! Just trying to keep the people fed and woke, you know?

Committed to the craft. Countries included: Suriname, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste
I ended up painting a tote bag since I have so many that I don’t use anyway


I firmly believe that it was thanks to cinnamon that the enjoyable flavor of the cookie was not compromised
Velvety smooth before dry ingredients (above) get added

Chocolate Fire Cookies
yields around 45 cookies

1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup Nutella
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Sift or whisk the dry ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Add the Nutella, vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Gradually at the dry ingredients until just barely incorporated, then add the chocolate chips. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Drop scant tablespoons of dough (they will spread) onto baking sheets and bake at 350° for 8-9 minutes, or until the cookies edges bounce back when you poke.


Whether you decide to warn your subjects about your cookies packing heat or let them discover on their own, this easy dessert is a fun party trick and party treat. Enjoy the reactions and have safe festivities!

A Day in the Life: Food52

You may know that I work at the food website food52.com. It’s a great resource for home chefs: thousands of recipes, daily content on what butter to use, how to season cast iron (I need to do that…future post?),  cookie maps! and then our shop with bespoke kitchen tools and home decor. Need a bed and breakfast tray? How about a mushroom log? As the photo producer I’m responsible for making sure all the photos for the site are shot and accounted for. That means I get to run around the set with the stylists and tell them when the mashed potato flatbread is ready to be shot, or if we’re missing ingredients for the vegan fish sauce. Sometimes I even get to be a food stylist, and bake things!

Shot by Linda Xiao

Last week we launched our holiday market pop-up right in Union Square. Many hands poured over the space to make it look like it does now. If you’re in the city, stop by and say hello, or shop around for the holidays.


Friday was #nationalcookieday, and we were fortunate enough to have the Union Square Hospitality Group grace us with a visit, and cookies from almost all of their restaurants.

Keep yours eyes out for more fun #f52life tidbits. And if you have any questions, send them my way!

What’s in the Pantry: Sunflower Seed Butter

    Before Ramadan started, I got on another baking kick. It’s easy to do in this house, always equipped with ingredients and interesting foods that we’re not sure what to do with. But Ramadan can’t stop me from getting in the kitchen, either. I already tried plans for popcorn chocolate chip cookies. I was inspired by the cocoa powder in the pantry. I was feeling a classic pairing of chocolate and peanut butter, but we didn’t have peanut butter. What we did have was sunflower seed butter. Have you heard of such a thing? You may have seen it among the cookie butters in Trader Joe’s. This place clearly carries everything. I found this jar sitting in the pantry, and it seemed to be waiting for the right moment to be used. No one had opened it, so I thought I would see what I could do. It wasn’t the smoothest of nut butter, but that’s not an issue if you like texture with your chewy. Thus materialized from the kitchen and my free Saturday afternoon, my sunflower seed butter-stuffed double chocolate cookies!

     I don’t care what the back of the cocoa powder packet says – melting chocolate is always the best way to go when baking cookies and brownies. Moist, dense, and excellent.

     You could always add some cocoa powder for that extra oomph, though.

     Electric mixers! I’m all about manual labor and traditionalism, but sometimes electric mixers just give you a texture you can’t get any other way that I’ve found.

     The art of moderate-sized stuffed cookies. You have to stick a hole in the first half of dough and stick a little bit of ss butter in the center then top it off with just enough dough, so the cookies don’t get massive. These came out just right. But I’ll warn you now: it will quickly become very challenging to manipulate the dough, oily fingers or not. I had to wash my hands and restart multiple times. I guess one disadvantage of the melted chocolate is the extra stickiness of the dough when you’re working with it.

     So shadows. Much sunny. Wow. So much chocolate – but not too much! Dig right in.

Sunflower Seed Butter-Stuffed Double Chocolate Cookies
Makes 24 cookies


6 tablespoons butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
Peanut Butter Cookie Filling
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar

In a large bowl, melt butter, bittersweet chocolate and 1 cup of chocolate chips with double boiler setup or in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until melted completely. Set aside and let cool.
In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add sugar and eggs, beating until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla extract and melted chocolate/butter, beating for another 1-2 minutes until combined. Stir in the dry ingredients with a large spatula until thoroughly dispersed. Fold in remaining chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer while you make the peanut butter cookies. Let the dough sit in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.

Place sunflower seed butter and sugar into a medium bowl, mix to combine.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the cookie dough from the freezer. and scoop out about a teaspoon of dough placing them about 2 inches apart. Using oiled hands, make a small well in the dough. Now take about 1/2 teaspoon of the sunflower seed butter and place it in the well. Scoop another teaspoon of the cookie dough and flatten into a disk. Place this over the filled well, pinching the cookie dough layers together. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes on the baking sheet. Consume rapidly.