I inadvertently took almost an entire month off from blogging! I normally have been very good about keeping to my two-a-week schedule, and even though I missed a post here and there after I had Nolan, I still was able to mostly keep on top of things. And then… he started crawling! [Insert cry-laugh emoji here.]
It does make things a bit more difficult when every five seconds I have to go pull him out from under a table, keep him from chewing on cords, and pull things out of his mouth (you know, lint, grass, dust, a stray dried chickpea near the stove). It doesn’t matter how much I vacuum or sweep, the boy will always find something to put in his mouth.
The other reason I’ve been gone is that I have been recipe testing some more experimental things, and nothing has come out quite to my liking yet. I don’t know if I’m just being overly picky, but I don’t want to post a recipe on here that I just feel “meh” about. Once I started screwing up a lot of things, I decided to take a short break to clear the cobwebs and poof! A week turned into a month.
Ironically, everything I baked in that time that wasn’t for the blog turned out really well. I made no-bake cheesecake bars for Easter, star anise cookies so I could play with my new spice grinder, and a coconut rum Bundt cake for Mother’s Day (a variant of which will almost certainly be posted on the blog at some point).
I realized that the reason I hadn’t been baking for the blog was that I was actually afraid of making more mistakes. It seemed too high-stakes, and I didn’t think my fragile ego could take one more failure. Phillip suggested that I ease back into things with a variation on a cookie recipe I like.
This recipe concept has been bouncing around in my head for years, but it seemed too weird to attempt. But then I remembered I once put garlic in a cake, so I was like “YOLO!” and bit the bullet. Having recently made Star Anise Snickerdoodles that we loved, I adapted that recipe. Can something be called a Snickerdoodle without any cinnamon? I don’t know. Deal with it.
There are no other spices in the cookie except pepper. I highly, highly, highly recommend toasting and grinding your own peppercorns, because it gives them a better flavor than using the can of ground black pepper you get at the store. It’s like rediscovering pepper. For real.
The Maldon sea salt sprinkled on top of the cookies gives that sweet and salty thing we like so much around these parts. The cookies taste buttery, and the pepper’s flavor and spiciness kick in a few moments later. I underbaked my cookies just slightly because I like soft Snickerdoodles, but if you like a bit more crunch, bake them until the edges are lightly browned.
Phillip was a little bit obsessed with these cookies. I came down one morning to find the container I had been storing them in empty on the floor next to the sofa, except for a few stray crumbs in the bottom. I was going to ask him if he thought the recipe was good enough to post on the blog, but I let that empty container speak for itself.
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1⅓ cup (160 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar, divided
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 2-3 tablespoons Maldon sea salt (or other flaky sea salt you like)
- Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add peppercorns to the pan and toast for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Remove to a small bowl to cool. Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to grind the peppercorns into a fine powder. Sift through a fine mesh sieve to get rid of any very large pieces that remain.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cream of tartar, and 1¼ teaspoons of the ground black pepper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth, about 30 seconds on medium speed. Add 1 cup (200 grams) of sugar and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until fully incorporated.
- Turn the mixer speed to low and slowly add in the flour mixture until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer, scrape down the sides and bottom, and stir a few times by hand to make sure everything is mixed together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Arrange your oven racks to the top-center and bottom-center positions. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with silicon mats or parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of sugar and ¾ teaspoon of ground black pepper. Use a disher to portion the cookie dough into 24 even scoops. Roll each scoop into a ball, then roll each ball in the sugar-pepper mixture.
- Arrange cookie dough balls on your prepared baking sheets, 12 per sheet (you will have to stagger them slightly so they don't run into each other as they bake). Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. (10 minutes gave me soft cookies; leave in until the edges are just slightly browned for crunchier cookies.)
- Immediately after you remove the cookies from the oven, sprinkle the tops of each cookie with a bit of sea salt.
- Cool cookies on the pans on wire racks for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies directly to the wire rack to cool completely.