Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

The Best Cookies In The World

Recent Baking: Experimenting with peculiar cookies

I’ve had a couple of recipes for somewhat out-of-the-way cookies sitting right here on my kitchen island for some time. Months, probably. Both originally from Food52, by the way. What with the low-carb thing I hadn’t yet made them, and I figured if I didn’t make them now, for Christmas, it might be a good long while before I found an excuse to try them.

So I made them. I made them tiny and fancied them up and put them right in with the more ordinary cookies and so far one is getting good reviews and the other is facing a more ambiguous reception. I’m going to offer both recipes here and you can try them if you like.

So, first, the more iffy cookie:

Food52 says this recipe comes originally from Kermanshah near Beirut, so this is a traditional cookie that generations have continued to make. Yet I couldn’t help but view this recipe with some concern. I like rosewater a lot. I like cardamom a lot, too. That leaves rice flour as a possible concern. There’s a reason you don’t just substitute rice flour one-for-one for wheat flour. It doesn’t behave the same in recipes, it doesn’t give at all the same results, and so I felt rather uneasy about trying this recipe. Especially since I am rather low on rosewater and this recipe uses quite a bit, relatively speaking. But I finally did try this, once as originally given and once as a variant. I’ll tell you about the variant in a minute. First, the original recipe:

Rosewater Cardamom Rice Cookies

4 oz butter, melted
4 oz sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp rosewater
8 oz rice flour (meaning ordinary rice flour, not glutinous (sweet) rice flour)
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cardamom

Combine butter and sugar, beat in egg, beat in rosewater. Combine the dry ingredients and stir in. Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill overnight. Let set at room temp half an hour if necessary (I found the dough workable straight out of the fridge). Roll out ¼ inch thick, cut out with a circular cutter, and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. I used the cap off some bottle or other, an inch and a quarter diameter or something like that, but certainly you could use an ordinary cookie cutter. I just wanted the cookies to be quite small and round, not with fluted edges.

If you bake, you may well be wondering what the dough was like to handle. Actually, it wasn’t bad. It took a bit more patience and care than rolling out a wheat-flour dough, and certainly the circle of dough tended to crack around the edges, but it wasn’t bad at all. The dough didn’t stick (I dusted the counter lightly with ordinary flour), it cut cleanly, and the circles lifted off the counter easily. I re-rolled the dough and cut more cookies until the dough was basically all gone, and really I did not add very much extra flour at all as I re-rolled and re-rolled.

Okay, now, pay attention: pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees. That is really two hundred and fifty degrees, not a misprint. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or so, until dry but still white, rotating the cookie sheets once if your oven tends to bake hotter on one side or the other.

There, that’s basically the original recipe. I found these cookies had a wonderful, vivid flavor, but they were quite dry. Crumbly isn’t unexpected with rice flour, but I don’t mean they crumbled and shattered; they were just unpleasantly dry in the mouth. I imagine one would generally eat them with coffee. I certainly wanted water. In order to try to improve the texture of the cookie, I made them again, this time with half rice flour and half ordinary all-purpose wheat flour. This improved the texture, but not all the way – and the wheat flour muted the flavors. So I’m not sure what to advise. If you try these cookies or a variation on the theme, let me know what you do and how it turns out, okay?

What I did was make little sandwich cookies because I figured icing would improve the dryness problem. I used a wonderful icing I had already made for the Aphrodite cookies: a lovely pink rosewater icing that plainly would suit these rosewater cookies perfectly. It did improve the cookies, but they are still probably going to strike most people as a bit too dry.

Aphrodite Icing (originally from TigersAndStrawberries blog)

½ stick butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese
1 lb powdered sugar (I probably use a little less)
3 Tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp rosewater
Pink food coloring

Cream the butter and cream cheese together. Start beating in the powdered sugar, adding the cream and rosewater as you go. You could make this icing a little stiffer or a little less stiff depending on what you plan to do with it. If you’re going to make sandwich cookies, it doesn’t need to be quite as stiff and that’s why you can probably get away with adding a bit less powdered sugar.

This recipe yields enough icing to make sandwich cookies using two recipes of Aphrodite cookies or four recipes of the rosewater cookies given here. It might be enough to ice a two-layer white cake, which I bet would be lovely and popular. Or you can use the extra icing on, say, warm scones. I happen to think that is just swooningly delicious and reason enough to make this icing.

However, can’t have roses in everything, right? So moving on:

Now, this next cookie is unusual in a quite different way: it uses pepper!

Yep, pepper. Years ago I tried a peppercorn shortbread type of cookie and quite liked it, and I love cayenne in this one apple cake I sometimes make, so I was really inclined to try this. These cookies turned out great: nice texture, chocolate-y, and with an interesting flavor that I’m not sure people will tend to identify as pepper. Let the flavor bloom in your mouth for a few seconds and I think it is more identifiable. Eat the cookie fast and then scarf something else and I’m not sure you would figure it out.

South African Chocolate Pepper Cookies

16 oz bittersweet chocolate chips, divided (I actually used 8 oz bittersweet and about 6 oz semisweet)
12 Tbsp butter
2/3 C brown sugar
2 eggs
2 C flour
2/3 C baking soda
1 Tbsp freshly ground black peppercorns (I used a mélange of black, white, green, and pink peppercorns because I had that handy, but I’m sure just black would be fine)

Now, listen, freshly ground black pepper is nothing like that stuff that comes pre-powdered in cans. If you are not used to freshly ground pepper, this recipe ought to provide you with the excuse you’ve been waiting for to invest in a decent peppermill or a spice grinder. You can do what you want, I’m not the boss of you, but seriously, freshly ground is just worlds better.

Anyway, once you’ve got the ground pepper, melt 8 oz of bittersweet chocolate. I recommend a microwave, thirty seconds at a time. You are not likely to burn bittersweet chocolate if you take any kind of care; it’s a lot more forgiving than milk chocolate. Cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in melted chocolate. Combine flour, baking soda, and pepper and stir that in. Stir in the remaining chocolate chips – I didn’t feel a whole ’nother 8 ounces was necessary, and as I said, I used semisweet at this point. Either way, drop by tablespoons on parchment-lined cookie sheets –

Unless you are making these for Christmas. In that case, you may want to try a fancier presentation. So chill the dough a couple of hours, roll into small balls, toss the balls a few at a time in powdered sugar, and then place the cookies on the baking sheets. Now you will get a chocolate-crinkle kind of cookie, much prettier than any drop cookie could ever dream of being.

Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. It’s hard to tell when chocolate cookies are done, so touch one lightly and see if it feels firm-ish. In my opinion, with this cookie you are better off erring on the less-baked side than the overdone side, but obviously you should suit yourself.

Cool. The flavors will bloom better if the cookie is not hot when you taste it. A little warm is okay. If you make these, let me know what you think! For me, this recipe is a keeper.

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7 Comments Recent Baking: Experimenting with peculiar cookies

  1. Irina

    Those rosewater cookies look like they’d work with almond flour. (Not tried yet but I’ll certainly try, perhaps when my cookie-expert daughter is here over Christmas)

  2. Elaine T

    The first thing I’d try on the rosewater cookies is cutting the cooking time down. In my experience rice flour makes things really wet, so it should be possible to get less dry cookies that way. I’d probably drop it to 10 minutes to start, see what I got, and tweak from there.

    And keep a strict eye on the oven temperature. (I love the wireless thermometers for this.)

    We’ve tried a black pepper chocolate brownie recipe which didn’t go over well, so I won’t try this one. But if you’d like that brownie recipe to try, let me know.

  3. Rachel Neumeier

    Degrees F, yes.

    Elaine, I tried a higher temp / shorter time with the ones that were part wheat. Maybe that helped reduce the dry texture. Hmm.

  4. SarahZ

    Anyone have favorite gluten free recipes? My sister just got diagnosed with celiac and is pretty bummed about not getting all her favorite Christmas cookies.

  5. Rachel Neumeier

    Maybe search for King Arthur gluten free cookies. They have lots of recipes and flour mixes, and I’ve found their recipes reliable. Good luck to your sister! I’d be bummed too, but hopefully she can make at least some of her favorites.

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