Another lot of baking to lure potential buyers to make an offer on our house, these spice biscuits certainly provided the right enticing scent for the open house.
These cookies and I go back a long way, back to my student days when I was experimenting with so many different choices and lifestyle ideas, especially vegetarianism, politics and feminism, not necessarily in that order.
I bought The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook in a second hand bookshop, as you do when your a student (and still do) and to quote its introduction Here is a cookery book full of imaginative ideas for well-balanced meals without meat!
It was a great book for a young cook, with easy and different bread recipes such as wholemeal bread, stollen, soda bread, muffins, crumpets to name but a few and flipping through the pages I can be reminded of a former 'me' who made comments like 'scrummy', 'good for a dinner party', 'nice supper dish' (who was that young woman I wonder?) and on top of Black Pepper Cookies 'superb' which indeed they are. To quote the book again This is an American recipe and these excitingly spiced chocolate cookies, with their sophisticated flavour and just a hint of pepper are ideal to serve for afternoon tea or after-dinner coffee
I think they are like Dutch Speculaa cookies, perhaps they were adapted from them by an newly arrived Dutch immigrant to the USA, replacing pepper for ginger and adding chocolate?
Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour
Makes about 36 cookies ( I made about 42 this time)
Preheat oven to fairly hot 190oC.
Lightly grease your baking sheet/s with butter and set aside.
3/4 cup butter
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar (I've always used raw sugar)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cocoa
In your mixing bowl, cream butter with the pepper, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla together with wooden spoon until the mixture is soft. Beat in the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Sift the flour and cocoa into the bowl and blend the dry ingredients thoroughly with the butter and sugar mixture until a firm dough is formed. The mixture really needs a bit of effort as there's not much liquid, best to use your hands at this point to get the dough mixed.
Roll spoonfuls of the dough into balls about 1" in diameter. Place the balls onto your baking sheet, leaving about 1 1/2" between them, though these biscuits don't spread that much. With the heel of your hand, or a fork to give a nice decoration, gently flatten the dough balls to about 1/4" thick.
Place baking sheet in the centre of the oven and bake for 12 minutes.
Remove from baking sheet, cool on a wire rack.
Try not to eat them all at once, but trust me, that's a hard call!