Holiday Chocolate Spice Cookies
The first snowflakes of the season earlier this week were perfectly timed to pair with the above chocolate pepper cookies I baked for a friend's holiday party. These aren't just any old Christmas cookie. They hail from my friend's mother's kitchen with a lot of love and a little spice. Marcia Russell has been making these lovely confections for nearly 30 years. I must quote her directly because her story is so heartfelt:
"Back in 1981, newly married and almost no kitchen knowledge at all, I came upon a book that changed my life. Hold on now. Martha Stewart's 'Entertaining'. It was all the motivation I needed to quit my job, stay at home, and become the best 'homemaker' ever. The fabulous Ms. Stewart became for me and as we know now, the standard to live up to in the home! Ha. It became my career and I've never (hardly ever) looked back. Like so many others I imagine. Within her book is a recipe for Chocolate Pepper Cookies. For many years I baked them without ever telling anyone the ingredients, for fear of the psychological set-up for turned-up noses. Everyone loved them though and as food tastes have changed since those days, I now proudly annouce all of the ingredients! I have also taken liberties with her original recipe (in typical Stewart style), and really 'amped-up' the spices. I hope you make a batch, find them craveable, and share them with as many people as you can."
According to Marcia and Sarah these cookies also come with a good dose of warning: you will be addicted within a single bite. Having never baked or tasted them before, I was a bit skeptical. But, just as they insisted, these treats will be making an appearance each and every holiday season from here out. They're rich, flavorful and hit you with that perfect amount of peppery-spice. So indulgent and satisfying that you'll be able to savor one or 2 and be done...well, maybe one or 2 per day while they last, which won't be very long if you share them with family and friends.
I must thank Mama Russell and Martha Stewart herself this holiday. In true creative cook form, I've taken additional liberties and further tweaked the recipe, pairing them with a rich caramel filling as well as a touch of mascarpone frosting with candied kumquats.
On with the recipe...
Chocolate Spice Cookies :: Two Ways
Serves :: makes a double batch
1 ½ cups unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon + an extra little pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Caramel Filling for "Sandwiches"
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 vanilla bean split in half (scrape out seeds and add both to pan)
*note mascarpone is like "Italian cream cheese", you can also substitute Neufchatel (1/3 reduced fat cream cheese) here
8 ounces mascarpone or Neufchatel cream cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature and cut into pieces
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
about 15 kumquats, thinly sliced
1/2 vanilla bean, spilt in half and scrape out seeds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the butter and the sugar in a stand mixer or with an electric beater. Add the eggs and beat until fluffy.
In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add to the butter mixture and beat until well mixed. Shape into two flattened discs. Wrap the discs separately in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. The dough can be frozen in an additional plastic bag for one month.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a well-floured board, roll out the dough until about ¼ inch thick. Cut dough into shapes of your choice and set 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just set, do not allow to darken. Cool on racks.
Caramel Filling for "Sandwiches"
In a medium saucepan, heat sugars over medium and allow to melt. Add in cream, butter and vanilla bean. Simmer for about 10 minutes while stirring. Sauce should thicken once cooled. Refrigerate up to 2 weeks.
Mascarpone Frosting & Candied Kumquats
Cream mascarpone and butter together. Mix in sugar and vanilla until well-blended and smooth.
Heat sugar and water over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add in vanilla and kumquats simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Place kumquats slices on parchment paper to dry.
After a very hectic week, I'm back and blogging. Yesterday's unsightly rain had me dreaming of spring and a whole lot of sunshine. And of course a bit of bright nibblings to go along with it. These rosemary-lemon shortbread are the perfect transition from winter heartiness (the rosemary) to spring liveliness (the lemon). Not to mention they're somewhat addictive if you're not careful. Get the recipe over at my post today on Rue Magazine's blog...and start baking!
Rosemary Lemon Shortbread ::
Serves :: 24 cookies
2 cups flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature *I use a European-style butter which has a slightly higher fat content. Plugra is a common brand – Whole Foods, Dean & Deluca and the like carry it.
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1/2 to 1 lemon *depending on taste
clear sanding sugar , if desired *Dean & Deluca carries it
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until creamy. Gradually add granulated sugar and vanilla to butter and cream together. Mix in rosemary, lemon juice and zest. Stir in flour mixture slowly until just blended. Form dough into a ball and divide it in half. Roll each half into a log, about 6 inches long or so – make sure log is squared at edges rather than rounded. Wrap logs in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat to 325°F and place oven racks on 3rd and bottom rung. Place about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sanding sugar on a piece of parchment paper and roll each log so that each side is well-coated. Cut each log into slices, about 1/3 inch thick. Place slices on 2 cookie sheets, about 1/2 inch apart. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes and reverse baking sheets in oven. Reverse baking sheets and bake 9 to 10 minutes more until golden brown. Transfer cookies to a rack and allow to cool.
More Dishes you might like
Little Lovelies :: Grandma’s Macaroons
These beauties are dangerously addictive and are perfect for when you're time-crunched and need to whip up something fast for your next dinner party, brunch or springtime soiree. Coconut macaroons hold a special place in my heart--they're simple, oh-so-delicious and these shown above come straight from my Grandma Bebe's vintage recipe box. What better to finally welcome spring weather with a tiny, tasty treat. Thanks grandma!
Coconut Macaroons ::
Serves :: 24
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups of sweetened, flaked coconut
1 14 ounce can of condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (as with most baked goodies, I opt for extra-vanilla - I run strong with 1 tablespoon extract and make sure it's good quality vanilla, I promise it makes a huge difference)
dark chocolate chunks for melting (if you wish to take the extra-decadent step of coating the bottom with chocolate or doing a light chocolate drizzle over top)
Preheat the oven to 350. Mix coconut, condensed milk and vanilla together in a large bowl. Lightly grease two baking sheets or cover them with parchment paper. Spoon coconut mixture into little compact balls and place on baking sheets about an inch or two apart. Bake for 6 to 7 minutes and flip baking sheets. Bake for another 5 to 7 minutes until lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack.
*For chocolate dipped or drizzled macaroons, melt about 1 cup dark chocolate chunks/pieces in a double boiler (I usually fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and place a metal or glass mixing bowl on top with the chocolate). Dip macaroons in chocolate or take a spoon and lightly drizzle chocolate over top. Place macaroons back on the baking sheet and in the freezer or fridge for 15-20 minutes to set the chocolate.