Walnut & Black Pepper Cookies in the Wood-Fired Oven
Hope the holidays brought you around a pizza oven for some authentic Italian food! The new year brought me new inspiration through a great recipe book, a gift from my neighbor Jules. I am not known to follow recipe books, perhaps because I like experimenting, following instead the trail of something I tasted long ago in Italy or inspired by a great meal at a restaurant or someone’s house. So the fact that I have now fallen in love with a recipe book comes as a total surprise to me… but there it is.
The book is “Cooking with Italian Grandmothers” by Jessica Theroux. The title really captures my experience as well, learning by watching le nonne... and I found the artwork, photos, stories weaved in between the recipes delightful. Yearning for comfort food and the fact that I had just purchased walnuts made me try the Walnut & Black Pepper Cookies on page 226. Wow! I became an instant fan with my first bite and loved the simplicity of the preparation. And… it is a tea cookie! My favorite kind, not too sweet, but very buttery and with the absolute right combo of walnuts and surprise element of black pepper popping in between bites. Of course making them in a wood fired oven adds another layer of goodness and comfort. (I know I will be trying each and every recipe in this book.)
The cookies can be mixed quickly after your meal in the pizza oven is done and the temperature has gone down to 350 F. It is fun to use the lingering heat in the oven to bake something special for dessert or for treats during the week, so I am always preparing an extra dish like this.
Walnut Black Pepper Cookies
Makes 2 dozen
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) soft unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons cane sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- A pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons semi-runny honey (like wildflower or chestnut from the farmer’s market)
- 1 cup (4 ounces) raw walnuts, pounded or coarsely ground
- 1 cup flour Extra granulated sugar, for sprinkling the cookies (optional)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the black pepper, pinch of salt, and honey; mix to incorporate. Add the nuts and flour, and mix with the electric mixer until the dough forms moist clumps, a few minutes.
Roll large teaspoonfuls of the batter between your clean hands, to make little balls. Place the balls on the baking sheet, and press down on them twice with the tines of a fork to make a crosshatch pattern. Sprinkle with a little bit of the granulated sugar.
Slide in the wood fired oven at 350F for about 25 minutes, or until their bottoms have turned golden-nutty brown. At these low temperatures you will have to place the door of the oven either on the outside ledge, partially covering the arch or, if the oven is cooling fast, completely seal the oven opening with the door.
This recipe is from Calabria and taken from the book Cooking with Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux.
Buon appetito from Los Angeles Ovenworks!