18 December 2009

Cookie Towers: Chocolate Pepper Cookies

Today I have the Christmas Factory in full swing. This year, I’m making cards and cookies. We’re giving our neighbors cookie towers, with two or three different kinds of cookies. Don’t tell them!

The light cookies here are the Italian Almond Cookies I posted in August, and the dark ones are chocolate pepper cookies. I found this recipe in an old Martha Stewart Christmas book from 1989. I changed it a little, of course. What I love about this recipe is that it’s not too sweet, but still intensely chocolate. On the heels of chocolate week, what’s better than that?

In addition to Christmas presents, these cookies make perfect ice cream sandwiches. Fill them with some veryvery good vanilla gelato and you’ll be transported back to childhood, but with a more sophisticated, adult flavor.

In this recipe you’ll find ground black pepper. Yep, black pepper. But wait, it gets worse. You’ll also find cayenne pepper. Yep. Cayenne. These two peppers enhance the deep chocolate flavor of this cookie. Trust me on this. It really makes a difference. For the black pepper, I grind it from my pepper mill and then grind it more in a mortar and pestle. You want it really really fine.

There’s a lot of cocoa in this. I probably don’t have to say that it should be the best that you can find. My cookies are really as black as they look in these photos!

Chocolate Pepper Cookies

adapted from Martha Stewart’s Christmas

350 g / 1 1/2 cups softened butter

450 g / 1 3/4 cups sugar

2 large eggs

525 g / 3 cups all purpose flour

200 g / 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 tsp freshly, finely ground black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt and spices.
  • Cream the butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture, mixing it well. Shape into a flat rectangle and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  • Preheat oven to 160 C / 350 F.
  • Working with 1/4 of the dough at a time (leaving the rest in the refrigerator), roll very thin and cut into the shapes you want. Transfer to baking sheets lined with baking parchment or silicone mats. Martha says that you can re-roll the dough once more. I re-rolled it until it was used up, but I didn't add much more flour while I was rolling (see note, below)
  • Bake 10 - 12 minutes or until crisp. (Here’s my favorite part of this recipe) Don’t let them darken. (SNORT! Could they BE any darker??) Transfer carefully to racks to cool.


  • In order to roll this dough out uniformly thin, I used the same trick I use for the almond cookies: I put two long bamboo skewers on either side of the dough and roll the dough between them.
  • This dough gets a little sticky as you work with it, and you don’t want to add too much more flour as you’re rolling it. Not only because adding more flour as you work the dough will make the cookies tough; but also because the white flour will show against the dark cookie! To solve this problem, I rolled the dough between two sheets of cling film which I had lightly floured (to get the flour to stick you have to roll the dough once to transfer a little of the butter from the dough to the cling film). From time to time you have to pull the cling film up from the dough, add a tiny bit of flour to the cling film, turn it over and do the same thing to the other side. When the cookies are cut, you can simply lift the cling film and peel them off like stickers. Voila!


Kate said...

Sounds like a great combination! Will have to give these a try....beautiful photos! :)

Bob said...

Holy crap, I have to try those!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

What beautiful cookie towers. Are you sure you aren't a pastry chef?

La Table De Nana said...

They are beautifully wrapped also..The duo cling film is a great idea.. You are giving your chocolatier a run for his $:)

lostpastremembered said...

Beautiful presentation... I love pepper in desserts... it gives things a little spark, don't you think? Great post!

Hungry Dog said...

Wow. These look totally professional. May I order some? ;) 10 cookie towers, please!

And if you're telling me I MUST buy some vanilla gelato and make ice cream sandwiches out of them...yes, ma'am!

Barbara said...

Can't wait to try these, Kate. And I love the clever way you stacked them up!

Grace said...

the skewer trick is a great tip! i love the shape of these cookies, and the presentation is quite eye-catching. man, i love cookies.

Sweet and Savory said...

Great job with these. I love the savory bite you included.

The Gypsy Chef said...

Beautiful photos! I have to make these cookies. Actually I really have to eat them! Pam

Kate at Serendipity said...

Sam, awww... I'm chuffed!

Monique, I don't know where the idea for the cling film came from, to be honest. I may have seen it somewhere a long time ago, but if I did I don't remember it. I just know that it makes these cookies a WHOLE lot easier!

Hungry Dog, Yep. Gelato. Get thee to a gelateria!

Grace, I got tired of trying to make them the same thickness. If they're different, then they don't bake evenly, and it's a mess. Heck, they might even get DARKER! heehee...

Thank you for all the lovely comments. I hope you do make these cookies--they're worth the trouble!

Junglefrog said...

O those look really good Kate and great idea to make them into little presents! Love it!

~~louise~~ said...

Black Pepper & Cayenne! Oh me oh my. I'm moving next door! I need just one "black" cookie to hold me over till I get there. I'm so cookie-baking challenged. Great tip though.

Hey Kate, if you get a free moment between baking those goodies, there's something I would like you to read over at my blog.

Thanks for sharing...

Kitchen Butterfly said...

I love EVERY single photo. Oh boy, I wish I had time to visit you....come on, what are friends for,right :-) Fantastic Kate

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Chocolate and pepper - what a great combo! I'd love to try these.

oneordinaryday said...

Love the idea of pepper in these cookies. Bet it really deepens that chocolate flavor. Very sweet gifts!

Vera Froman said...

These are delicious, and I love the unexpected taste of pepper in these. I made a chocolate coating for the cookies—ever since I started supporting the Year of Godiva Giveaway, I can't resist adding chocolate onto chocolate! A thing layer of ganache adds a nice complement to the texture of the cookie.

once in a blue moon... said...

just popping in to wish you a very merry christmas and to thank you for sharing all your wonderful pics at fws! happiets of holidays, i have loved peeking into your busy life~

2 Stews said...

Kate..My son and I have started adding pepper into EVERYTHING! It just adds so much flavor and I love it in chocolate. I have this MS cookbook, but so many recipes get forgotten...thanks for the reminder and I love the product of your new toy! Great pics!


Mrs Ergül said...

What pretty and fantastic presents these cookie towers make!

Robin said...

Fantastic flavor combos Kate - your images making me so jealous. Wishng you a fabulous Christmas and blessings for the New Year!

So wonderful to have met you in Tuscany. That was one of this year's best presents. Cheers!

Lynn G. said...

So nice to hear about your holiday kitchen in full swing! I missed the Italian Almond cookies in August, thanks for sharing them again.
Wishes for a wonderful holiday Kate and hope for another rendezvous in the new year! Cheers!