Slavery to Savory

June 4, 2008

I enjoy baking and enjoy eating my baked goods, but I've come to realize that when I have the urge to bake cookies what I often want is something more akin to a cracker. Same goes for a hankering for chips, which is why these have changed my life and I can't seem to stop touting them at every opportunity. This realization spells the end of the need to justify veganizing countless perfectly reasonable cookie recipes, for the answer to that indignant question of why anyone would mess with butter and eggs is this: I prefer salty to sweet. Though my recent introduction to self-made chocolate croissants courtesy of an ingenious suggestion by visitor Anna to stick chunks of dark chocolate into a crispy plain croissant ("they just taste so much better that way!") was a revelation for which I cannot thank her enough, when it comes down to it I would sooner never eat chocolate again rather than forgo bread, crackers, cheese, etc.

That being said, crackers can only be so decadent (alright prove me wrong) and the best cookie recipes come from that melding of sweet and savory, a savory treat decadent enough to truly be a treat. The following buttery peppery nutty nuggets that pass as cookies are such a treat. Involving too much sugar to be called crackers, yet pervaded by a magnificent spiciness that smacks into the butter with a satisfying muffled thud of agreement.

Hazelnut Black Pepper Cookies
from Chocolate & Zucchini
yields approximately 60 cookies

I have made these cookies a couple times now and discovered that chilling the dough for an hour doesn't really seem necessary unless you are squeamish about getting more butter residue on your hands while constructing the dough balls. While they don't call out for a plethora of additions the way some cookies do, this time around I added some diced crystallized ginger to half the batch and they turned out wonderfully (just watch out for the spice factor).
3/4 cup whole hazelnuts
1 2/3 cup whole wheat flour (I have used whole wheat pastry flour as well as a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose with germ and both have worked just fine)
2/3 cup rolled oats (Clotilde suggests spelt flakes, which I have not yet tried since I am typically flush with rolled oats rather than spelt flakes)
1/2 cup + 2 Tbl unrefined cane sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper (1/2 tsp if you want a wallop)
10 Tbl butter, chilled
2 Tbl orange blossom water (Clotilde suggests rose water, but fear of ending up with cookies smelling and potentially tasting like potpourri I have only used orange blossom water. Plain water is fine as well seeing as you really just need something to add a bit of moisture to the dough, but the combination of smells provided by the orange blossom water and pepper is worth it.)
Preheat oven to 300 F unless you are going to chill the dough for an hour, in which case preheat the oven when the dough is almost finished chilling.

Toast hazelnuts in a dry skillet until they are fragrant and be careful not to burn them. Let them cool a bit before chopping them roughly, either by brandishing your best mallet or carefully using a chopping knife.

Mix all ingredients except for the butter and orange blossom water and whisk until blended.

Finely dice the butter and add to the dry ingredients. Either use a pastry cutter or your hands to work the butter through the flour mixture, breaking up the resultant butter balls until you get something like coarse meal.

Gradually add the orange blossom water whilst stirring until the dough is damp enough that you can pack it together into two balls.

If desired, cover the bowl with a dishcloth and set aside to cool for an hour.

Place walnut-sized dough balls on a baking sheet (I was dubious about emulating something so diminutive as a walnut but dough balls this size do result in appropriately sized cookies considering how much flavor is in each one. This way you can dip two in your tea rather than bolting through one larger mass), flatten them down and bake for 25 minutes until just barely browned around the edges.

Leave on baking sheet for a few minutes before setting them on a rack to cool.


1 comment:

Michelle said...

Hey,

Nice to meet you last night and nice looking blog!