Stealthy Pepper Cookies
(adapted from this sugar cookie recipe)
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons white pepper
Cracked black peppercorns
Cream butter and sugar; add eggs, milk, vanilla. Sift or whisk together dry ingredients except for peppercorns. (Be prepared for sneezing when you mix in the pepper.) Add dry to wet, mix until dough forms. If dough is very soft, add up to 1/4 cup additional flour. Divide dough in half and roll each half into a log of about 2" diameter. Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least an hour and preferably overnight. The dough is fairly soft, so after it has firmed up somewhat you may want to roll it around a little to keep it from getting flat on the bottom. Another option is to flatten four sides and make square cookies. For cookies that won't spread, freeze the dough for half an hour just before baking.
Heat oven to 400F. If dough has been frozen, let logs sit at room temperature for five minutes. Spread peppercorns over a flat surface and roll the logs in them to lightly coat. You may have to press down fairly hard to get the peppercorns to stick to the dough. Slice into 1/4"-thick rounds (or squares or whatever) and arrange on baking sheet, allowing an inch of spreading space. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden around the edges and on top. Transfer to cooling rack; enjoy while warm and soft or after cooling and crisping.
These are stealthy for two reasons:
1) The white pepper is completely invisible. Without the peppercorns, these would look like perfectly ordinary sugar cookies.
2) They taste like perfectly ordinary sugar cookies too, at first. Give it a moment... aha, there's the heat! Yum.
If you like them less spicy, reduce the white pepper, but don't leave off the peppercorns altogether; they add a lovely flavor as well as additional heat. You can always put in a teaspoon or two of white pepper, mix and taste the dough, and add more if you feel it's needed. I imagine green or pink peppercorns could be used instead of black, as long as they were crushed in some fashion first.