Chocolate Fire Cookies


For three years, Kelley and I spent every fall and spring Saturday morning drifting through the Dane County Farmers’ Market in Madison, Wisconsin. We arrived early when the crowd was still thin, knowing that in a few hours, the sidewalks would be packed 6 or 7 people wide. The crowd moved counterclockwise around Capitol Square, and anyone walking against the wave of people was frowned upon and deemed a “newbie.”

We always went in with two goals in mind:

1. To get our produce, fresh pasta, cheese and other groceries for the week.

2. To get a little treat, like Cress Spring Bakery’s chocolate fire cookies, filled with the flavors of rich chocolate and spicy cayenne and cinnamon.

We always made the full circuit of the square at least once, scoping out the best deals on curly bunches of kale and pale heads of cauliflower. In the fall, we drifted past green buckets of astors, mums and marigolds, smiled at the Amish Family as they arranged apple, cheery and pear turnovers in tidy rows on their table.

We inhaled the scent of melted provolone, Monterey Jack cheese and chilies that rose from the hot and spicy cheese bread at the Stella’s Bakery tent.

Long-time veterans of the market, Kelley and I knew exactly where to stop for the best samples. We stopped for a taste of Brunkow Cheese’s baked cheese and samples of their cheese spread in flavors such as Swiss Almond and Aged Cheddar. Savory Accents’s creamy hot pepper dip was always a winner. Springy cheese curds, the Wisconsin classic, were a particular favorite; the squeakier, the fresher and therefore the better.

By the time we reached Cress Spring Bakery, I’d cross my fingers that they hadn’t already run out of our favorite treats. I’d order a chocolate fire cookie, while Kelley would pick out one of the lightly-browned apple crumble bars (or berry or rhubarb crumble bars, depending on the season). We’d trade bites of our treats as we headed back to State Street and walked towards campus.


Chocolate Fire Cookies

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 40 cookies

Chocolate Fire Cookies

These chocolate fire cookies aren’t quite the same as the ones at the market, but they’ll at least come close for those of us who can’t visit Madison regularly. May it brighten your weekend morning — or add an unexpected note to your Christmas cookie platter.


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour*
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne or hot pepper seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating until the yellow and creamy.
  3. Stir in the flour, cocoa powder, milk, baking soda, salt, pepper, cayenne and cinnamon. Mix just until there are no dry spots left in the dough. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Roll rounded tablespoonfuls of dough into balls and space 1 1/2″ apart on a greased cookie sheet. Press down lightly with the palm of your hand to flatten the balls into 1/4″-thick disks.
  5. Bake at 375F for 10-13 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies feel slightly firm and springy. Allow the cookies to rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make Ahead and Storage

*Edited to note: Some readers have reported problems of the dough being too dry and crumbly. To avoid this, start with 2 1/2 cups flour. If the dough feels wetter than normal cookie dough, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time (up to 8 tablespoons) until it reaches the appropriate consistency.

Here's how to store and ship your cookies!



  1. says

    I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE THIS POST. [obviously] So well written – you did a great job capturing the sights and sounds and smells and tastes of one of my all time favorite places on earth – DCFM!! YOU WIN 🙂

  2. Richard says

    Hi Julie! Thanks for sharing another recipe. My wife and I really into chocolate cookies. We should try baking this too, after we are done with our chocolate chip cookies. We’re storing cookies in our home everyday. And your recipe will be our new company while watching movies.

  3. says

    OMG, literally there’s tear threatening to fall. Such good memories!

    I love those cookies. And those bars.

    Aw heck. I love everything about that Farmer’s Market. Too bad when you’re in this neck of the woods the market will be indoors…

    • Julie @savvyeats says

      That and it will probably be a Thursday or Friday (I think?) when we’re in Madison. I need to come back in the summer sometime!

  4. says

    This is such a well written post – I feel like I was walked counter-clockwise through the market myself 🙂

    I’ve never done the whole chocolate & hot pepper thing before, I should probably give it a try! Maybe for Christmas…

  5. says

    Oh I do love markets! That sounds like a particularly lovely market too 🙂
    And those cookies sound really good, I’m actually quite a fan of chocolate and chilli.
    I love baking treats for Christmas 🙂

  6. Anna says

    I have seen chocolate with chili selling in the stores, BUT I never had the guts to actually buy and try them. I know, I am a chicken. This recipe with the spicy cayenne baked cookies is really interesting I must say, you made me really curious now. I might try to bake them actually. 🙂

  7. Jen says

    I was so excited to try these but very dissapointed on how they actually came out. They were very dry and gritty and not all that flavorful despite all the spices. I had to keep adding more chocolaate chips in it to give it flavor and moisture. Not sure if I will try them again, but if I do I will probably use a different flowers and bump up the amount of heat.

    • Julie @savvyeats says

      I’m so sorry they didn’t turn out for you! Did you use whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour? Regular whole wheat flour needs a lot more liquid added compared to pastry. Let me know and I’d be happy to help you troubleshoot!

      • Jen says

        Whole wheat pastry flour! Went out and baught it special just for the recipe. The texture wasn’t bad when the cookies were still warm, but once they cooled completely they got dry and crumbled as soon as you bit into them.

        Do you think using a different flour would work? Or whole milk instead of skim?

        • Julie @savvyeats says

          You could try a different flour (regular all-purpose flour will give a similar result), but I would recommend adding a little more milk. What was the texture of the dough like? Mine was like a very, very thick mousse, if that makes any sense. I would try beating the butter/sugar REALLY well, then add the rest of the ingredients as directed. If the dough seems dry, add 2-3 more tablespoons milk. Just make sure you are not overmixing once the flour is in…stop as soon as all the dry spots are gone. I hope this helps!

  8. Savannah says

    We just tried to make these cookies and had the same problem as Jen. We definitely used whole wheat pastry flour and the result was way too dry and without much flavor. I’m thinking the 3 cups of flour measure might be off?

    • Julie says

      Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear about that! I’ll change the recipe to reflect your and Jen’s comments.

  9. Audrey says

    I just wanted to let you know that Cress Springs are no longer making their Chocolate Fire Cookies. I did, however, request the recipe in July and just now received it. Thought you’d be interested.

    Chocolate Fire Cookies

    1.5 cups whole spelt flour
    2 Tbl cocoa powder (non-dutched)
    1.25 cups dark chocolate chips
    .25 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp cayenne
    .5 tsp black pepper
    .25 tsp salt

    10 oz semisweet chocolate (we use a 62%)
    6 oz unsalted butter
    1 cup unrefined cane sugar (rapadura or sucanat)
    1 orange, zested
    2 eggs

    Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler. While it is melting, mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Beat together sugar, eggs, and orange zest. Stir in melted butter and chocolate mixture, then fold in dry ingredients. Spoon or scoop onto cookie sheet, then bake at 325 ° for approximately ten minutes. The cookies don’t change color in the oven, and it may take some trial and error to get the baking time down. If the cookies don’t spread out in the oven, bake at a cooler temperature. These cookies should be stored in the freezer or refrigerator in hot weather or they will start to melt and fall apart. Makes 12 large cookies.