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!