Thursday, December 10, 2020


From Mary Jane Maffini

This December I am working hard to finish the sixth Charlotte Adams book, Death Plans a Perfect Trip. The page proofs of the reissue of Organize Your Corpses are due and there’s something else going on. What is it? Oh yes. Christmas and it will take some tweaking this year. My point is that I really really need a lot of caffeine and it seems like a good idea to get it from cookies. Win-win, right? Plus tis the season and all that.  I was going to call these Kick in the Pants Cookies (I need that too) but it seemed out of sync with the genteel yet mysterious vibe here at Mystery Lovers Kitchen.  The advantage of these cookies is that they do have a kick and if I can hang on to enough of them, they’ll also make a nice little gifts.  Thanks for the boost, cookies!   



3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar, loosely packed

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons good quality espresso powder

⅔ cup unsweetened very good quality cocoa powder, sifted  (we use Penzey’s)

½ cup salted butter, melted

4 large eggs room temperature

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup icing sugar (reserved for rolling cookies just before baking)

Parchment paper to line three cookie sheets.


Combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, espresso powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Set aside.

Whisk together cocoa and butter in a large bowl. Whisk in eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture and stir just until combined.  I agree, it doesn't look that great at this stage, but just you wait.

Gather dough into a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 45 – 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F

Shape dough into thirty-six 1-inch balls. Roll balls in icing sugar.  

Place balls 3 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

Bake until tops of cookies are cracked, about 12 – 13 minutes. Do not overbake. 

Let stand for five minutes. Remove from cookie sheets and cool on racks. IMHO they are quite pretty and look good as part of the decor too. 

You can refrigerate them for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.  I can hear them calling to me from the freezer as I type.  

Some will go to friends and some will pop into my mouth for that 'kick in the pants'!  Do you have cookie plans for this season? Something new or a recipe that you make with joy every year? Come on by and talk about it!  Jingle, jingle.

Mary Jane Maffini is the author of three and a half mystery series: the Camilla Maffini mysteries, the Fiona Silk capers and the Charlotte Adams mysteries – number six coming soon!  The Charlotte Adams books have recently been optioned for television films. Details to come when they can be made public. With her daughter Victoria Maffini, MJ collaborated on The Book Collector Mysteries as Victoria Abbott. Victoria Abbott spent several happy years on Mystery Lovers Kitchen. MJ  is very glad to be back. 

Don't forget to check out MJ's Canadian books:  Camilla MacPhee features a fortyish widowed lawyer who runs an advocacy agency for victims of violet crime, in Ottawa, Canada's capital city. Life would be easier if she didn't have the world's worst office assistant, the world's bossiest sisters and, arguably, the world's greatest stubborn streak. If you like your mysteries a bit edgy with a side order of humor, these could be for you.

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  1. MJ, these must be very loud cookies because I hear them calling to me too! They look beautiful and delicious

  2. So glad, Lucy! Have a wonderful day. Hugs.

  3. I love these!
    Cayenne pepper? Interesting addition.
    I'm intrigued to see how well they worked with just a powdered sugar dusting. My recipe calls for rolling in regular sugar, then powdered sugar.

    1. I don't have that recipe, Libby. BUT I thought it worked very well. Maybe I'll do a little test the next time on some of the cookies just to be 'scientific'. We all loved the little hit of cayenne (only 1/4 tsp). This recipe will be a keeper for us. Hugs.