Holiday Cookie Series: Chocolate Pepper Sable

My hometown newspaper is doing this Cookie Swap thing this year, which is actually kind of cool.  You submit your holiday cookie recipes to their website, which they will publish online.  They’ll pick their favorites and publish them in the Food & Wine section of the paper.  And then, readers can vote for their favorites, with the winners receiving cookbooks or something like that.  Anywho, the kickoff of this swap started in this week’s edition of Food & Wine with some really different holiday cookie ideas.

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I saw these Chocolate Pepper Sables and immediately wanted to try them.  I love cookies that have unexpected ingredients… my favorite chocolate chip cookie has sesame seeds and soy sauce.  Hubby thinks I’m crazy (he’s not a fan).  He was a little more than unsure about the outcome of a cookie with black pepper in it, but in the end he decided that they were “really good!”  At least, that’s what he texted me.  And he’s also sitting next to me at this very moment eating one.  Or two.  If you didn’t know there was pepper, you might not be able to discern what that tingling is on your tongue.  However, if you do know about the pepper, you can taste it.  There is an undeniable kick and peppery aftertaste that really compliments the sweetness and the chocolate.

This recipe kicks off a little Holiday Cookie Series that I’m going to do over the next couple of weeks.  Though this cookie is new to me, the rest of the series will focus on my the cookies that I make every holiday season.  Enjoy!

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Here’s what you need: (adapted from a recipe I found in the paper that doesn’t credit anybody)

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup finely chopped chocolate or mini-chocolate chips (I used some leftover bittersweet discs)

Ignore that there isn’t granulated sugar in that picture up there… I remembered I needed it just in the nick of time.

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Heat your oven to 350 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine flour, cocoa powder, pepper, and baking soda… whisk together.  Side note: I only had about 1/3 cup cocoa powder (eek!), so I threw a couple of squares of unsweetened baker’s chocolate (finely chopped first) into the food processor.  It took quite awhile to get enough ground down fine enough (I used a sifter), but I think the last minute substitute worked pretty well.  Later, I looked at the baker’s chocolate box and noticed it said that 1 square = 3 tablespoons cocoa powder + 1 tablespoon oil.  Score.

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In a mixing bowl, put butter, both sugars, vanilla and salt.  Beat on medium until light & fluffy.  Gradually add flour mixture and continue to beat just until a dough forms, scraping down sides with a spatula as needed.

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Mix in the chocolate pieces or chocolate chips.

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Form dough into 1 inch balls with your hands (about 36 balls) and place about 2 inches apart on baking sheets.  The recipe says to use a flat-bottomed glass to flatten each cookie, but that didn’t work for me.  The glass kept sticking.  I even tried oil spray, but no worky.  In the end, I used my hands to flatten each cookie.  Much better.

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Bake on 350 for 12-15 minutes, or until no longer wet looking.  Cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

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