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Mocha Kissy Cookies require no Kissing before Eating

Eat, sip and be merry. Kissing requirements are up to you.

When you work with preschoolers as I did for many years during my career in early childhood education, you learn how to hold in your laughs. From the mouths of those sweet, innocent little children come words that express their most serious thoughts. More than once during those years with young children I was astonished as I listened to their conversations.

I'll never forget the day I was sitting in a child-size chair at a kidney-bean-shaped table with short legs, enjoying a snack with a small group of three-year-old children. Out of the blue, one little girl said, "Dolly Parton's not a Christian." Her big eyes glistened. Her mouth kept moving as she nonchalantly continued to eat her snack.

On the chair right beside her, another blue-eyed little girl with long blonde hair spoke up. "She's not Jewish, either." It was so surprising, it was humorous. I held back a little giggle. As Art Linkletter would have said, "Kids say the darndest things!"

Each year just before Christmas, we had a holiday gathering for all the children and their families at the campus child care center I worked at for several years. Each family contributed a plate of holiday treats.

One year, as I moved around the Center visiting with parents and siblings of the preschoolers I spent time with each day, I happened upon a conversation between two preschoolers. They each held one of those peanut butter cookies with a Hershey kiss in the middle. "Kiss me," said the little girl as she looked at the confused little boy in front of her. "You can't take a bite of your kissy cookie until you kiss me. That's what my mom and dad do," she said sweetly. I pictured her young parents sitting on the couch in their living room at home with a tin of Kissy Cookies resting on their laps, sharing a quick little peck as they ate cookies together. I held back a little giggle.

The little boy wanted nothing to do with any kind of kiss other than the chocolate one in the middle of the cookie he held in his small hand. He turned on his heels and walked away, the cookie held up to his mouth as he began to chew the chocolate out of its middle.

Mocha Kissy Cookies do have a milk-chocolate kiss stuck into their middle. No kisses are required before eating them, though.

The cookie dough comes from a recipe for cookies I got at a cookie swap in 1992. Typically, the dough is rolled into balls and smashed with a fork to make a criss-cross pattern on each cookie. For Mocha Kissy Cookies, I rolled each ball of dough in an egg white whipped with enough water to make it thin and then rolled them in cinnamon-sugar before baking. The result is a crunchy outside with a chewy coffee-flavored inside, a hint of cinnamon and a big kiss of chocolate -- mocha flavors through and through.

It's a cookie adults will enjoy more than children. If you're having friends over, serve Mocha Kissy Cookies with a cup of Holiday Hot Mocha topped with fluffy whipped cream. That recipe is in my column this week. Click here to get to that recipe.

Eat, sip and be merry. Kissing requirements are up to you.

Mocha Kissy Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons instant coffee granules or espresso powder

1/3 cup shortening

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon milk

1 tablespoon hot water

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 egg white mixed with a couple of teaspoons of water and whipped with a whisk

48 Hershey's milk chocolate kisses, wrappers removed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Sift flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and instant coffee granules or espresso powder into a bowl and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening, brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar, egg, vanilla and milk until fluffy. Add sifted dry ingredients and blend. Add hot water and mix. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. (I used a #100 portion scooper).

Mix remaining 3 tablespoons granulated sugar with cinnamon in a bowl. Quickly dip each ball of dough into a bowl of egg white and water mixture. With a fork, transfer ball to sugar mixture and roll to coat. Place sugar-coated ball of dough onto prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Remove from oven and immediately push a milk chocolate kiss into the middle of each cookie. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet. Use a metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Makes 3 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies.