These are really fantastic little shortbread cookies that just melt in your mouth. The chocolate is just a little fudge-y (especially if you underbake them a teeny bit), and the salt and pepper add something really excellent. They don't taste savory at all--the salt and pepper just add that little je ne sais quoi. While salt is becoming a fairly usual addition to sweet recipes with chocolate or caramel, freshly ground pepper isn't so typical...given how good these cookies are, though, perhaps it should become the next fad! These are tasty just as they are, but I think mixing in some cacao nibs for a little crunch would be excellent as well.
Salt and Pepper Cocoa Shortbreads (from Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 large egg yolk
3/4 tsp fleur de sel or 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1. Sift the flour and cocoa together and set aside.
2. Beat the butter on medium-low speed until it is soft and smooth. Add the confectioners sugar and continue to beat until the butter is satiny. Add the yolk, salt, pepper, and vanilla and beat until the mixture is smooth. Add the flour-cocoa mixture in three additions, beating on low speed only until each addition is incorporated.
3. Turn the dough out onto a working surface. Roll the dough into a thick log, about 2-inches in diameter. Wrap in wax paper and chill at least 4 hours. The dough can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for 2 months.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment or aluminum foil.
5. Cut the log into 1/2-inch thick slices and place teh rounds on the baking sheet, leaving a little space between the rounds. Bake for 8-14 minutes, at which point the cookies should be set on top and fairly firm to the touch. A slightly shorter baking time will yield fudgier, softer cookies; a slightly longer baking time will yield crisper, crunchier cookies.