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Chocolate-Black Pepper Cookies

Chocolate-Black Pepper Cookies

Source: Martha Stewart Living, November 1998


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground pepper, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon good-quality instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Coarse sanding sugar, for rolling


  1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt, pepper, espresso powder, and cinnamon into a large bowl; set aside.

  2. Put butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined.

  3. Turn out dough onto a piece of parchment paper, and roll into a 2-inch-diameter log. Roll log in the parchment. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove log from parchment paper. Let soften slightly at room temperature, about 5 minutes. Roll log in sanding sugar, gently pressing down to adhere sugar to dough. Transfer log to a cutting board, and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place rounds on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 1 inch apart. Sprinkle each round with freshly ground pepper.

  5. Bake cookies until there is slight resistance when you lightly touch centers, about 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 days.

Reviews (32)

  • Simpatico_LT 10 Dec, 2012

    I used ground espresso instead of instant, and I also substituted grated, unsweetened baking chocolate for a small portion of the cocoa. I didn't notice any graininess from undissolved espresso grounds (which I ground even more finely than I usually do for our espresso drinks), and I loved the strong chocolate and coffee taste and smell. These were a big hit at my neighborhood holiday celebration, and I think they might be my new favorite cookie.

  • ellenmm 9 May, 2012

    I found the dough hard to shape into a nice cylinder, so the cookies look a bit unprofessional. There's a lot of cinnamon flavor, and not enough deep chocolate taste, My husband said that in a blind test he'd guess they were cinnamon cookies.

  • marthalike 25 Jan, 2011

    Instant espresso powder is NOT the same as ground coffee beans. The ground coffee beans will not dissolve in the recipe. You can find the instant espresso powder in a jar in the section of the grocery where regular coffe is sold or at specialty food stores like an Italian marketplace.

  • manorgarden 25 Jan, 2011

    To help cut the log w/o having to roll out the dough, I use a thread. Wrap it around the log of cookie dough, cross on top and pull, as if you were making a knot. This is a technique the Czech use to cut their traditional dumplings - the thread is sharp and slides through the soft dough like a wire. You just need to go slow and not wobble, so that the slice is even.

  • DairyGodmother 8 Dec, 2010

    I've come to love these - they are a grown-up chocolate cookie. I skip the sprinkling of pepper at the end - though I do include it in the recipe. It gives it a bite but is not too strong. I actually grind my pepper into a powder in my mortar

  • cayanna 18 Sep, 2010

    Cerine, if you don't want to use espresso powder for kids, try to find some chocolate extract online. It can be expensive but it will enrich the chocolate flavor. Just substitute for some or all of the vanilla extract and make sure its for baked goods, some are not.

  • MissElliePhD 5 Apr, 2010

    These are fabulous! Everyone loves them. The first time I made them the "log" lost its shape as I cut it. So the second go I rolled it out and used cookie cutters to make shapes (biscuit cutters for simple round ones). They came out great! If you like them even spicier, add a tsp of cayenne pepper - they're rich and chocolatey at first, and then have a nice bite at the end. Really delicious!

  • CaliDog 21 Mar, 2010

    The coffee is in there simply to enhance the flavour of the chocolate. I have chocolate cake recipes that include coffee, but you don't taste the coffee. I wouldn't leave it out.

  • cerine 10 Mar, 2010

    Any idea for a substitute for espresso powder, my toddler would really enjoy these cookies .

  • discob77 7 Mar, 2010

    Hello Vietnamvetwife......Yes, espresso powder is the same. The same beans are used for espresso beans as for regular coffe, it's just that they are ground much finer than regular coffee.

  • vietnamvetwife 7 Mar, 2010

    Excuse my ignorance but I think I may be forgiven for my question following, as ingredient names do vary throughout the world. Is expresso powder the same as ground coffee beans used in making expresso coffee? I live in Australia you see, and if I am right in thinking that these two items are exactly the same, then what you lovely Americans call expresso powder, is ground (expresso) coffee beans. With thanks ...

  • chefette86 2 Aug, 2009

    In the Cookies book, it says the recipe yields 4 dozen.

  • Ranie 23 Mar, 2009

    Does anyone know how much the recipe yields?

  • judypatel 22 Mar, 2009

    would like to make these, but how many does it make? i need to take these somewhere and need a lot of cookies.

  • colleenmon 22 Mar, 2009

    I not a coffee persone either. I think these cookies sound great. I would just leave the espresso powder out. I guess I will have to test it out.

  • anniequinn 19 Mar, 2009

    If I don't like coffee would I still like this cookie?

  • pschristmas 13 Mar, 2009

    "Why would you put pepper in a cookie?"

    Because black pepper enhances the flavor of spices. I make black pepper cutouts every Christmas. They're a real hit.

  • kitkat0708 10 Mar, 2009

    Why would you put pepper in a cookie?

  • Ramram 9 Mar, 2009

    i have jude them , they r in the oven right now ... but seeem really good ....

  • mrscurrie 9 Mar, 2009

    Espresso Powder is found in the same place as instant coffee. It is not a common ingredient to find in most grocery stores. You can replace regular intant coffee powder but depending on the type of powder, you amy need 1/2 extra. I find that if the instant coffee bits are very 'puffy' I have to increase the amount by 1/2. Espresso powder comes in a small jar and it is a fine crystal.

  • twoangel 9 Mar, 2009

    When ever you see a recipe for what ever and it says tablepsoon and followed by a plus it means in addition to . As the grandmother said, be nice about explaining to anybody as baking and cooking are fun ........ these cookies look fab and especially for our bake sale at our Parish . thanks for the taste comments .

  • MargiL 8 Mar, 2009

    Espresso powder is alfound by the coffee and tea in your local grocery.

  • phatkak 8 Mar, 2009

    Hi all..Anyway I do't know if I am from Podunk or what but I can"t seem to find espresso powder in my stores. What should I be looking for and where should I be looking for it?

  • grandmarak 8 Mar, 2009

    What a rude comment! Lighten up. Maybe they haven't done much baking.

  • Gilleebeens 8 Mar, 2009

    Use One Tablespoon plus the One Teaspoon. Think of it as four teaspoons OR One and One-Third Tablespoons. One tablespoon of the espresso is not quite enough. They are yummy!

  • bevsedgehills 26 Feb, 2008

    what an unsual combination, I must try these!

  • sonjahoyle 27 Dec, 2007

    I used both measures for the espresso powder, and they turned out fabulous! They had more of a chocolate taste than a coffee taste with a fantastic peppery after-taste. One of my favourites I made this holiday season!!

  • hedgehog40 27 Dec, 2007

    someone please answer: I'm also confused by the two expresso powder measurements - which do you use (or BOTH?). This sounds like my kind of cookie and I'd love to made these. I even have expresso powder on hand! Just let me know how much you use - THANKS!!

  • debber2 23 Dec, 2007

    There are two measurements for expresso powder in this recipe. Which is correct; should it be 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon of expresso powder?

  • sonjahoyle 19 Dec, 2007

    I made these today, and they are absolutely delicious!!! I wasn't able to find any sanding sugar, so I used granulated sugar for rolling the cookie dough log, and the finished cookie still had a nice glistening edge. I can't wait to share this cookie with family and friends!

  • pgebhardt 14 Dec, 2007

    A new favorite for our family!!! Rich chocolate flavor.

  • sonjahoyle 12 Dec, 2007

    Can't wait to try these cookies!

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