Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chocolate Pepper Cookies For Comfort

There's a lonely little sunflower poking its bright bronze head out from amongst the tangle of budding tomatoes. It's new here and the pumpkin vines are already trying to drag it down. It's a tough cookie though. I can sense that it will put up a good fight and ride out the hard times ahead with as much strength and courage as it can muster. It may be the only one of its kind but that is not to say that it faces each day alone and friendless.

A dense but relatively neatly trimmed rosemary bush sits to its left and on its right stands a sprightly young black elder sapling. Together all three take turns in providing shade for their companions throughout the scorchingly hot days, the generous display of flowers attesting to their thorough enjoyment of summer rays. Try as we might to avoid it however, things we love in life often leave us. Perhaps it's a lover who is going away (for what seems like a lifetime) until spring or maybe it's a case of two friends who are simply growing apart.
Sunflowers are an interesting species. They're used to produce margarine, latex, biodiesel and something akin to peanut butter called sunbutter. The real advantage they have over other plants though, is their natural ability to cleanse the soil (called phytoremediation), ridding it of toxic substances including arsenic, lead and uranium.

I remember travelling to the sprawling city of Cuenca during my last trip to Spain. Famous for las casas colgadas, the houses hang perilously from the cliffs of Huecar's Gorge that divides the old city from the new. It's funny how I find beauty in strange places sometimes. It wasn't the architectural balancing act or the stark juxtaposition of what appeared to be two vastly different eras rolled into one. What struck me the most was sitting alone on the train returning to Madrid and being surrounded by a never ending field of sunflowers. It was incredibly surreal. They rolled over the hills and stood bravely against the rocky outcrops that bordered the railway tracks. Sitting quietly, staring out of the window and letting the sight wash over me was an experience in itself and it felt so comforting, like I was finally home.

This cookie recipe comes from a place far south, across the Strait of Gibraltar. Adapted from South Africa (Where Flavor Was Born: Recipes and Culinary Travels Along the Indian Ocean Spice Route, Andreas Viestad), these chocolate cookies come out rich and dense like a brownie, with bursts of melted chocolate studded throughout and a potent black pepper kick. For SHF #61 - Sweet Comforts this is a recipe for chocolate pepper cookies - soothing, spicy and awesome with a glass of milk.
Chocolate Pepper Cookies
(adapted from Where Flavor Was Born, Andreas Viestad)

450 g bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa), coarsely chopped
170 g unsalted butter, chopped
100 g raw cane sugar
2 eggs (110 g)
250 g flour
4 g baking soda
3 g salt
12 g black peppercorns, coarsely ground
Melt half chocolate over a bain marie, set aside to cool to blood temperature.
Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer with paddle attachment.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until thick.
Sift flour, baking soda and salt into a bowl.
Add to butter and mix thoroughly.
Slowly beat in melted chocolate.
Stir though remaining chocolate and pepper.
Cover and refrigerate dough for 1 hour.
Place heaped tablespoons of dough onto a lined baking sheet (for a smoother cookie roll the dough into balls and flatten them slightly with your palm).
Bake for 12 minutes at 180ÂșC "until crisp and crunchy on the outside but still somewhat chewy inside".
Allow the cookies to cool on the tray for a minute or two before transferring to a wire rack.


  1. I went to Madrid for the first time recently - I'll rememeber to look out for those sunflowers on my next visit.

    Thanks for entering Sugar High Friday - I love the idea of pepper in a cookie :-)

  2. Yum! These cookies look so good! The chocolate and pepper combination is very very interesting...

  3. heyyy i finally baked these cookies!


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