Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chocolate-Black Pepper Cookies

I definitely have a thing for unusual flavor combinations. When I hear or read about new and exciting ways to mix flavors, I usually want to try them right away. These cookies do fall into that category, but I waited a long time to make them. I'd had my eye on them ever since I first saw them in Martha Stewart's Cookies. I just never got around to making them. Perhaps it is because I tried baking sugar cookies with black pepper a few years ago, and I really did not like them.

Well, I think I waited way too long to try these cookies! I say that because I am in love with them. They are perfectly chocolatey, like a brownie, with an exotic and delightful blend of spices that give them a hint of warmth. It's so hard to explain them; you should just try them!

The cookie dough was supposed to be shaped into a round log, which was then rolled in coarse sanding sugar (I used turbinado sugar). The whole log was chilled in the refrigerator, then sliced into round cookies. The cookies were then sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper before being baked in the oven. As I'm sure you can tell from the picture, I need some work on my log-rolling skills! My cookie pieces hardly turned out round; they're all flat on one side and domed on the other. I darsay that the shape of these cookies hardly matter, though. One taste and you won't care what they look like. They are that scrumptious.

The most amazing thing about these cookes, aside from their taste, is the fact that the fat content isn't that high. That's why I chose to make them finally. I was looking for a good cookie that wouldn't break the fat-gram bank, and these fit my criteria perfectly. If you slice the dough log evenly into three dozen cookies, each cookie only has about 65 calories and 3 grams of fat. Not bad for a decadent chocolate cookie! Keep in mind, I'm not saying they're healthy, exactly! But there are worse things you could be eating when you're looking for a sweet treat that cures your cravings.

Chocolate-Black Pepper Cookies
from Martha Stewart's Cookies
makes 36 cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened, Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 tsp. finely ground black pepper, plus more for sprinkling
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. good-quality instant espresso powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
coarse sanding sugar, for rolling (I used turbinado sugar)

1. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, pepper, espresso powder, and cinnamon into a medium bowl. Set aside.
2. Put butter and sugar together into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Slowly add flour mixture; mix until just combined.
3. Turn out dough onto a piece of parchment paper, and roll into a log that is 2 inches in diameter. Roll log in the parchment. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove log from parchment paper. Let soften slightly at room temperature, about 5 minutes. Roll log in sanding sugar, gently pressing down to adhere sugar to dough. Transfer log to a cutting board, and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place rounds on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 1 inch apart. Sprinkle each round with freshly ground black pepper.
5. Bake cookies until there is slight resistance when you lightly touch centers, about 10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 2 days.

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