Sweet & Spicy Chocolate Shortbread Recipe

The one benefit to my occasional bout with insomnia is television watching.  When I wake with no inkling of getting back to sleep, the food channels call to me. On one of my early morning moments I happened across a cooking show in which a chef had decided to combine two incompatible ingredients….shrimp and chocolate.

As a self-proclaimed chocolate diva I am all for chocolate in different manifestations. However, I really didn’t understand that whole concept of seafood and chocolate. When the show was over I went back to sleep, puzzled.  Needless to say, when I officially woke for the day, I was still thinking about the show.

It got me pondering….Chocolate is pretty great, but could I figure out a way to create a recipe that would include an unlikely ingredient and most importantly, not inspire people to gag at the thought of it?

In the midst of deep thought regarding my newest challenge, the phone rang and I was happy to hear that an old friend would be in town and wanted to stop by that afternoon. My friend is an avid coffee drinker so I thought we would have afternoon coffee with a treat. Since I wasn’t able to get the flavor combination challenge out of my head, I was thankful for the excuse to bake a tasty treat.

Shortbread seemed like a great vehicle to test my experiment. My daughter and I had spent the morning at the local farmer’s market spice sampling and we purchased a variety of fun spices. I decided to give my shortbread some life by going with cayenne pepper.

After it cooled, I couldn’t wait to try it out (what else is new) and it came out pretty darn great. Chocolaty, spicy, sweet, crispy, buttery….yummy! I immediately decided to test out my new invention to the entire gang at my house.  Everyone said “what is in here?” The cayenne adds a kick but the chocolate mellows out the spiciness and the added sugar topping really brings happiness to my taste buds.

With my experiment a success, let me tell you, there is nothing more delightful than spending a sunny Saturday afternoon with a friend, a great cup of coffee and a delicious treat.


—¾ cup butter, softened (plus one big pat for buttering the baking pan)
—1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
—3 ounces Dutch-process cocoa powder
—1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon*
—¼ teaspoon salt
—1 generous pinch cayenne pepper*
—½ cup granulated sugar
—2 tablespoons raw sugar
—*Fresh spices really make a difference.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. First butter and then line with parchment paper, a 9-inch-square baking dish. With the parchment paper create an overhang on all sides of the pan.

In a bowl gently whisk the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, salt and cayenne until well combined.

In another bowl beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the flour mixture and beat until uniformly crumbly. Place evenly into the pan. Using a sheet of plastic wrap place on top and press down to make the shortbread as even as possible. Randomly poke with a fork all over. Once even, with a very sharp knife cut into small blocks. I made 16, 1 inch blocks. Return plastic wrap to cover and place in refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.

Bake for 30 minutes until puffed and firm. Once removed, immediately re-cut where you originally made your first cuts. Cool completely before removing from pan.

These bars can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.