I've written here before about one of my favorite ice cream purveyors and flavors -- Tara's Organic Ice Cream in the East Bay and its White Pepper Chocolate Chip ice cream. It sounds a little bizarre because it is, but it is also unbelievably good. I've recreated the ice cream at home with pretty good results, and also once turned the flavor combination into macaroons that had white pepper shells sandwiching a dark chocolate ganache filling. These macarons weren't for everyone but I was pretty pleased with them. I've been thinking for a while now about making a white pepper shortbread cookie, and when a googling spree turned up a dearth of appealing white pepper shortbread recipes, I decided that the time for a white pepper shortbread cookie is maintenant!
Instead of muddling the chocolate and white pepper all together in the cookie dough, I followed Tara's lead and kept the chocolate as a separate component -- where the chocolate came in the form of chips in Tara's ice cream, it is a glaze on these cookies. While the concept of spicy chocolate is certainly not new, the heat imparted on chocolate goods usually comes from chipotle or cayenne. Here, the use of white pepper, a staple in Chinese cooking, takes these cookies off the spicy chocolate beaten path.
If you enjoy desserts with unexpected flavors (as I do), you'll probably also like the white pepper shortbread cookies all on their own (as I also do). You could also turn these shortbreads into little cookie sandwiches with a dark chocolate ganache filling, or serve them along side a scoop of dark chocolate ice cream for a simple yet surprising dessert.
White Pepper Shortbread with Dark Chocolate
Makes about 30 cookies if using a smaller cookie cutter (I used a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter.)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground white pepper, and a tiny bit extra for finishing
1/8 teaspoon of salt
4 oz bittersweet chocolate*
* You'll very likely have leftover melted chocolate, don't let it go to waste -- spread some roasted almonds (or other nut of choice) on parchment paper, pour the leftover melted chocolate over the nuts, sprinkle with a little finishing salt, and throw in the fridge to set. Impromptu salted almond chocolate bar!
In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and turbinado sugar (using an electric mixer or just by hand with a wooden spoon) until the mixture takes on a paler color and is slightly fluffy.
Add the flour, ground white pepper, and salt to the butter-sugar mixture and stir until the dough comes together. The dough will be crumbly, then begin to form as you continue to stir.
Transfer the dough to a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Then, on a flat surface and with the bag open, roll the dough out to about a quarter of an inch (like so; the dough should end up taking up less than half the bag). Press out all the air you can, seal the bag, and place it in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.
While the dough is chilling, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove the dough from the fridge and slit the bag open. Cut the rolled-out dough into any shapes you like. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until just browned around the edges. Remove from oven, and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then move them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Using a double broiler or the microwave, melt the chocolate until smooth and combined (with the microwave, heat in 30-second intervals, stirring between intervals). Dip the cookies in the chocolate, and set on some parchment paper. Sprinkle the chocolate portion of each cookie with a little ground white pepper. Let the chocolate cool and set.
Cookies last in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.