Creative Cookies

These chocolate chip treats hide a southwestern surprise.

Mary Ellen Bartley

The chocolate-chocolate chip cookies from Phoenix-based Allen & Cowley Urban Trading Co. look pretty much like any other chocolate-chocolate chip cookies: brown, crackled, and studded with pecan pieces and chocolate chips. They're not. ''Most people are afraid of them,'' laments Mike Cowley, co-owner of the company. For some, the idea of a cookie spiked with ancho chile powder is obviously more than a little daunting.

The cookies are Cowley's improvisation on the Mexican tradition of mixing chiles and chocolate (as in some moles, for example, or in certain chocolate drinks). The combination seemed a natural for Cowley and partner Lee Allen, who have been selling a variety of Mexican- and southwestern-inspired seasoning mixes (called Dusts) since 1987. It also didn't hurt that when the pair began thinking about baked goods (around two years ago), one of their local haunts, the Z Tejas Grill, was serving a tasty ancho fudge pie. Cowley spent months developing the Ancho Chile Fudge Cookie, which has 11 ingredients and is rich and chewy, like a brownie: ''We bake it slowly, at a low temperature,'' he says, ''because it's, well, 47 percent chocolate.'' The ''smidgen of ancho'' doesn't add any chile flavor or heat—although you may feel a pleasant tingle lingering in the back of your throat—but magically balances the chocolate.

Allen & Cowley also sells Traditional Mexican Wedding Cookies (made with butter instead of the customary lard), Lemon Pistachio Cookies (which are lemony wedding cookies with pistachios added), Spiced Honey Doodle Cookies (Cowley's grandmother's version of snickerdoodles), and some more usual varieties. Visit www.allen-cowley.com for more information.