28 November, 2018
Italian Chocolate and Black Pepper Cookies
Today’s cookies are a trial for a classic Italian cookie cake that I will be making later this month for our choir’s Christmas concert. These were made as a Thanksgiving dessert designed for everyone to enjoy, including my father-in-law who isn’t much a fan of sweets. Instead of making a mince pie or something else equally sugary, I decided to go for a cookie that was a little sweet and plenty interesting. In a cake, these cookies contrast with the rest of the traditional bunch by providing contrast against the assortment of other cookies, most of which are light in color.
While these cookies are definitely still cookies in the fact that they’re sweet to eat and best enjoyed after a meal (or snuck beforehand), they pack an interesting spicy punch from the black pepper. A more traditional cookie that has a lot in common with these guys is gingerbread. Both cookies are on the tamer side of sweet with lots of warm spices. Unlike gingerbread, however, these cookies are not hard, but rather a little crumbly. When you work the dough, it will almost feel too dry, but it should stick together when you mold it with your hands. It should not be sticky, and it should not be dusty. It’s almost like Play-Doh, though the taste is much better. 😛
In Italian, these cookies are called Biscotti al Cioccolato con Pepe Nero. I thought I hadn’t had them before, but as soon as I tasted the dough, memories came back to me in waves. They really are a staple in any true Italian assortment, particularly in the aforementioned cookie cakes, which are traditionally presented at weddings. I’ll definitely be adding these to my repertoire of cookies to make when I need a sweet fix!
3 1/4 cups Flour
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1 tbsp Baking powder
1/4 cup Unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp Ground black pepper
1 1/4 tsp Ground cloves
1 1/4 tsp Ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Vegetable shortening
1/2 to 1/3 cup Milk
2/3 cup Chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a couple of baking sheets. In a large bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients before adding in the vegetable shortening and mixing it by hand. Once all of the dry ingredients have been combined with the shortening so the mix has the texture of cornmeal, add 1/2 cup of milk and the walnuts. Using your hands once again, combine everything. The dough should just stick together and be a bit on the crumbly side. If it is too crumbly and does not hold together, add in a little bit more milk. The dough should not be sticky.
Pinch off enough dough to shape into 1-inch balls. Place them an inch apart on the baking sheet and stick them in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Let the cookies cool on a baking sheet. If you want a sightly sweeter treat, you can make the following glaze for them:
1 1/2 cups Confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 tbsp Milk
1 tsp Rum extract
Combine everything but the sprinkles in a bowl and pour or brush the glaze over the cookies, topping them off with sprinkles. If you don’t have rum extract, you can replace the liquid (the milk and the extract) amounts with straight spiced rum. Let the glaze dry and enjoy!