Salt and Pepper Chocolate-Pine Nut Cookies

I have stated many times my proclivity to savory over sweet but sometimes the desire for a treat just takes over and you have to give in.  For me this recipe is the perfect solution for those moments as it marries sweet with savory and the end product is so satisfying.  What makes this cookie a step above the ordinary is the use of high quality chocolate, flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  I know it sounds a bit strange but I absolutely love the combination and I think you will too.

Lets start by talking ingredients.  Perhaps you have heard me talk about choosing the finest ingredients you can find and afford and the huge difference they make in the final outcome of your product.  I will first address the chocolate.  There is a definite difference in chocolates.  Many that are sold as “baking” chocolate are mostly sugar and other artificial ingredients and contain little or no actual chocolate.  The percentage of cacao is a good indicator of the chocolates quality.  For this cookie I chose Valrhona chocolate, a product from France that has 70 % cacao.  I have been reading about its superior quality so I went about trying to find it.  Unable to find it locally, I ordered it online from a company called Culinary District.  They shipped promptly and I feel it was worth the effort.  The chocolate is dark and rich and a delight to the taste buds.  I rough chopped it and used it as you would chips.  There are many quality chocolates on the market so choose the one you like best.  The next thing is the salt.  A flaked sea salt like Maldon, is the perfect choice.  There are other brands available but this is the one I use and it is available at markets and specialty stores.  Make sure it is  flaked and not just coarse ground such as Kosher.  Freshly ground pepper is the other unusual addition to this cookie.  I really like the Indian Tellicherry black peppercorns.  They have a robust flavor and can be found at spice shops, such as Penzys, or specialty food stores.  I use them in my daily cooking so I always have them in my grinder.  Feel free to use your pepper of choice.  I am simply making suggestions for products I know to be of high quality.

Now that we have established that let’s get onto the good stuff.

Recipe                       Makes about 4 dz.

2 c all-purpose flour

1 t baking soda

1/4 t salt (whatever you use for baking)

2 sticks (1 c) unsalted butter + 1 T, room temperature

3/4 c light brown sugar

3/4 c granulated white sugar

1 t  pure vanilla extract (again, choose a good quality)

2 large eggs

12 oz. high quality chocolate, broken up or chips

1/2 c pine nuts

1 T flaked sea salt, like Maldon

1 1/2 t freshly cracked black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and 1/4 t of salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the 2 sticks of butter, sugars and vanilla using a stand  or hand mixer until you get the consistency of buttercream frosting.
  4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating 10 seconds after each egg.
  5. Beat in flour mixture in two or three batches until incorporated.
  6. Stir in the chocolate pieces.
  7. Melt the remaining 1 T of butter in a small skillet.  Add the pine nuts and toast, stirring frequently.  Be very careful not to burn.  If you do burn, discard and start again.  Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl when butter is brown and foamy and pine nuts are golden.  Allow to cool for a few minutes.
  8. Add to the dough, making sure to get all the brown butter goodness, along with the salt and pepper and stir to evenly distribute.
  9. Place scant tablespoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1-inch apart.  I use a small cookie scoop which helps keep them uniform in size.
  10. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until they are golden brown.  Allow to cool on sheet for 4 minutes and then remove to cooling rack.

I usually bake one sheet at a time, preparing the second while the other is baking.  I think they bake more uniformly that way but that’s just me.  Do it the way that suits you best.

These were served Halloween night to a visiting bat and banshee (as well as their lumberjack dad and pioneer mom) and they were gobbled up in no time.  The gorgeous chocolate paired with that hint of salt and pepper was a hit for all ages.   I believe that says it all.

What savory/sweet treats have you tried?  I am always on the lookout for recipes so bring it!

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