In spite of the name, you don’t taste the black pepper. It only adds a subtle note that intensifies the chocolate flavor. I used the wreath and tree cookie cutters for the holidays, but other shapes make these cookies perfect for any time of the year.
1 stick (= 4 oz or ¼ lb) butter or butter substitute (I use Earth Balance)
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp finely ground black pepper
1 tsp instant espresso powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 large egg
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon, and black pepper. Using a wire whisk or fork stir to break up any lumps. (Sifting is the best technique here. If you have a sifter use it on this step.) Set aside.
In a small bowl, dissolve the espresso powder in the vanilla extract. Set aside
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the sugar and butter on medium high speed until the butter is fluffy and paler in color, about three minutes, longer if using bowl and spoon.
- Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and mix on medium high speed until combined.
- Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and dissolved espresso powder to the sugar, butter, egg mixture. Mix on medium high until combined.
- Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on lowest speed, slowly add the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined and there are no streaks of flour.
Transfer to a bowl or tightly sealed container and refrigerate dough four hours or overnight.
To make slice and bake cookies, roll the dough into two cylinders approximately six to seven inches long. Roll the cylinders in granulated sugar to coat, and tightly wrap in parchment paper and plastic wrap. Refrigerate four hours or overnight. To bake, unwrap chilled cylinders and with sharp knife cut into approximately ¼-inch slices rolling the cylinder slightly after each slice to maintain the round shape. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets. If desired, using cookie cutters or sharp knife, cut into desired shapes.
To bake rolled cookies: If using a rolling pin, be sure to lightly flour board, and pin. Using a portion of dough approximately the size of the palm of your hand pat the dough into a disk, and pat a bit of flour onto both sides of the disk, slapping lightly to then remove excess flour. Place dough on board and roll to approximately 1/4-inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut out shapes. Slide offset spatula under cut dough to transfer to parchment lined cookie sheets.
You can also take one or two tablespoons of dough, roll into a ball into the palm of your hands, then place on cookie sheet. Flatten with the flour-coated bottom of a drinking glass.
Sprinkle the cut cookie dough on the cookie sheets with colored sugar or “holiday” sprinkles and bake for 8 to 9 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 350˚F. You can also bake them without sugar or sprinkles, and decorate cooled cookies with buttercream, royal icing, or simple melted white chocolate (as in the picture above.)