Hello, chocolate black pepper cookies!

by | Oct 7, 2009 | baking | 13 comments

These are my new favorite Birthday Present cookies (based solely on the fact that I’ve given them to both Scott and Stacey on their birthdays). Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Black Pepper Cookies: YUM. Dark cocoa, espresso powder, black pepper in the dough and then a sprinkle on each cookie, and crunchy turbinado sugar along the edge. They are a masterpiece of flavor and texture. Really.

And my new favorite way to package them is to take an empty oatmeal canister and wrap it in wrapping paper, and then stack the cookies inside. So much nicer than trying to load them onto a plate and mess with plastic wrap. Or load them into a plastic bag and pretend that’s at all gifty.

Chocolate Black Pepper Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground pepper, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon good-quality instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter , softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Coarse sanding sugar, for rolling
  1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt, pepper, espresso powder, and cinnamon into a large bowl; set aside.
  2. Put butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined.
  3. Turn out dough onto a piece of parchment paper, and roll into a 2-inch-diameter log. Roll log in the parchment. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 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 pepper.
  5. Bake cookies until there is slight resistance when you lightly touch centers, about 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 days.


  1. sarah

    How can I get out of work so I can go home and make these RIGHT NOW?

  2. Corinne

    ooOOOOoooh. sounds deee-vine! I see we share similar baking loves too…ie no raisins! and some delish soft/crunchy ginger cookies etc, etc…
    you might like the Christmas sugar cookies I make- just add loads of fresh ground pepper and cardamon. Spicy goodness.

  3. Julie

    Corinne, those sound good. I’ve kind of given up on Christmas sugar cookies because so often they taste like nothing much. I might make these chocolate black pepper cookies for Christmas instead, this year.

  4. Kate

    Oh, bless you! I’ve been on a serious chocolate jag lately and these look just perfect!

  5. sarah

    Julie – The Joy of Cooking rich rolled cookies will make you a believer in Christmas sugar cookies again. Buttery butter goodness. Yes, Julie, there is a Christmas sugar cookie to love.

  6. Julie

    I don’t know, Sarah. I’m skeptical. I made one last year that should have been a wonderland of cinnamon and butter, taste-wise, and they still tasted like not much.

  7. emily

    snickerdoodles instead. butter cookie but tangy. with cinnamon sugar on the outside. sparkly, therefore, spicy, and buttercookie-esque but better. bet you could roll and cut them in shapes too, never tried it. my grandpa’s favorite cookie to make, miss that about his old house.

  8. Julie

    Totally agreed on snickerdoodles. And chocolate ginger sounds amazing.

  9. emily

    I have something to add to this post, months later: I tried the snickerdoodle recipe to make “dinosaur cookies” as wylie requested this afternoon. not stiff enough for cut-out cookies. but if you added flour, i bet it would be fine, and work better. Just fyi. we ended up making little balls as usual and, oh, how I love the snickerdoodle.

  10. Julie

    Now I just want some snickerdoodles. It’s been months since I baked, really, but I’m feeling a bit better. I think I might wait until Thanksgiving to embark on the baking, and then go from there with some cookies or something. It’s been too long.

  11. emily

    I’m embarking on a real baking cycle. it helps with preschool, I find, to say, “in your lunch you have the snickerdoodles we made!”

    I seem to be failing on the “don’t use sweets as a reward/incentive” front. do you have thoughts on this?

  12. Julie

    Oh, I have drastically, drastically failed on the “don’t use food as reward/incentive” front. I am really trying not to do this — and, in fact, not to use ANYTHING as a reward/incentive other than, you know, the pleasure of doing the right thing. Which sometimes works, but mostly not, what with the many years of cookie-as-reward that I’ve established.

    And yes, homebaked goodies in lunchbox make ME feel warm and fuzzy, so I know it helps for Henry too (Eli’s preschool makes lunch AND breakfast AND snack for him…another reason for you to move here!)


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