It's just not Christmas in my house without a fresh batch of these wonderful Italian cookies. They're so easy to make and you probably have all the ingredients in stock. There's a secret ingredient which I thought was really strange the first time I made them. ( I almost left it out). It's freshly ground black pepper. That's right... black pepper. You can barely taste it in the cookies but they just wouldn't be the same without it so don't leave it out. Merry Christmas to all and happy baking!!
Walnut-studded chocolate drop cookies are always found on a wedding cookie cake because they are firm and provide a good color contrast to the lighter cookies. This recipe has changed hands and ingredients many times in my family, but the one thing that remains constant is the black pepper in the dough. These freeze beautifully.
3 1/4 cups King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa 1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cloves 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup solid vegetable shortening 1/2 to 2/3 cup milk 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
FROSTING 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted 3 to 3 1/2 tablespoons milk 1 teaspoon rum extract Colored sprinkles
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease two cookie sheets. Sift all the dry ingredients together into a bowl. Work in the shortening with your hands until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add 1/2 cup milk and the nuts and mix with your hands until well blended. If the mixture seems too dry and does not hold together, add just enough additional milk so the dough holds together. Pinch off 1-inch pieces of dough and roll them into balls. Place 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until firm. While the cookies bake, make the frosting. In a bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, and the rum extract and beat until smooth. Add additional milk if necessary to make a thin frosting. Let the cookies cool on racks only until warm. Dip the tops into the icing, place on the racks, and sprinkle with colored sprinkles. Let the frosting dry completely before layering the cookies between wax paper. These will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week or can be frozen for up to 2 months.