Cookie Party: Volume 6

Thursday, September 10, 2015
It's been forever since I've experimented with a new cookie recipe. Lately, if I've had the time to bake at all, I've mostly fallen back on familiar favorites. But I recently moved apartments, and in moving, I noticed a bookmark wedged into one of my cookbooks. I flipped to the marked page, and rediscovered what can only be described as the weirdest cookie recipe I've ever seen. It immediately intrigued me, not only because of its oddity, but for the fact that it looked relatively simple and I already had all of the ingredients on-hand.

Black Pepper Cumin Cookies
Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice

I like to make a different kind of cookie each holiday season, but it's a bad idea to make a ton of cookies without a test batch first. This recipe seemed promising for December, so I spent an afternoon over Labor Day weekend giving them an initial try. As the name suggests, this recipe incorporates two ingredients I've never seen anywhere near cookies before: Black pepper and cumin. Whaaaaa? Are these cookies or a stir fry? Even stranger, there didn't seem to be much sweetness to counterbalance the spice. There's only a half dozen tablespoons of sugar in the entire batch.

Well, that's why they call it a test batch. Despite my confusion over the inclusion of heavy spice, the scarcity of sugar, and the complete absence of liquid ingredient components (no milk, no eggs), I figured they were worth a shot. One of the things I really like about this recipe is that it utilizes very few dishes. You can keep your mixing bowls in the cabinet for this one; everything is mixed in the food processor.

My question about where the "cookie" flavor comes in was somewhat answered by the butter in this recipe - a whopping two sticks. So, these were to be butter cookies accented with spice. Got it. Now I just wondered how strong the spice flavor was going to be. My delight with the simplicity of these cookies continued after the dough was made. All you have to do with it is make 1-inch balls, then flatten them with the palm of your hand onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Easy prep and easy cleanup! Once my flattened cookies were ready to go, I just baked them until they were golden, then cooled them briefly on a rack.

The real test of these cookies would be in the reactions to their exceedingly strange flavor, so I gave them out to a bunch of friends, and asked for honest opinions. As with many things in life, I got a range from "Whoa. That's way too much cumin," to "Whoa. Give me the recipe immediately." The overall response, though, was far more positive than I thought it was going to be. I gave them to people I do not consider adventurous eaters, and got puzzled faces, followed by "They're really weird, but...I like them!" I liked them, too, though unlike their sweeter cousins, I probably couldn't eat more than four or so at a stretch. After looking down at my stomach, though, that may be a good thing.

These cookies are definitely a conversation starter. They may not be for everyone, but given their uniqueness, their simplicity, and their overwhelmingly warm reception, I think we've found a winner for the 2015 Holiday Cookie. Now I just need to stock up on butter.