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Pepper and Spice Dark Chocolate Cookies

This image courtesy of Marcus Nilsson

Fiery black pepper adds a little heat and brings the chocolate in these cookies back to its origins in Mexico. Historically, chocolate was always mixed with chile peppers and taken as a drink by the Aztecs. And to this day, in the rural areas of South America, cooks still grind cocoa beans with nuts and spices. The natural oils in the cocoa and nuts hold the mixture together in a disk, which is then scraped and shaved in the mornings to make hot cocoa. This cookie is reminiscent of that sandy, crumbly disk. I keep the texture somewhat coarse by using whole peppercorns and cinnamon sticks and grinding them at the last minute. Then I add lightly crushed pink peppercorns so you get an overall background heat that’s enlivened with sharper peppery bursts with a slightly floral, piney note. Refrigerating the dough overnight helps it keep its crumbly texture after baking. It’s a pleasant surprise.

Cooking Methodbaking

CostModerate

Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Cocktail Party

Dietary Considerationhalal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Mealdinner, tea

Taste and Texturebuttery, hot & spicy, spiced, sweet

Type of Dishcookie, dessert

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns (1.66 grams)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour (6.4 ounces, 181.5 grams)
  • 2/3 cup Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder (2 ounces, 57 grams)
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder (7.35 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice (1.25 grams)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (1.25 grams)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger (.2 gram)
  • Pinch of ground mace
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon pink peppercorns (.33 gram)
  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened (6 ounces, 170 grams)
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar (6 ounces, 170 grams)
  • 1 large egg (1.7 ounces, 48 grams), at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (8 grams)
  • Granulated sugar, for sprinkling
  • Spice grinder or clean electric coffee grinder
  • Mortal and Pestle
  • 2 (11-by-17-inch) baking sheets

Instructions

  1. In an electric spice grinder or clean electric coffee grinder, grind the black peppercorns and cinnamon stick to a medium-fine powder. Sift the ground spices, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, allspice, salt, ginger, mace, and cayenne onto a pie of parchment or waxed paper and set aside.

  2. Using a mortar and pestle or the flat side of a knife, crush the pink peppercorns. Place the pink pepper in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and add the butter and brown sugar. Beat until creamy and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the egg and vanilla.

  3. Add the spice-flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Transfer the dough to a piece of plastic wrap and roll it into a 1½-inch-diameter log. Wrap well and refrigerate overnight.

  4. The next day, position the oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 375°E Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick liners. Using a thin-bladed knife, slice the cookies into 1¼-inch-thick coins and place them on the baking sheets ½ inch apart. Sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of granulated sugar. Bake, turning the sheets from back to front and switching them between the top rack and the bottom halfway through, until the cookies are just firm to the touch, about 8 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes to firm up, then use a spatula to transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

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