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Our Naughty Category Winner, Szechuan-Peppercorn-Gingersnap

Szechuan Peppercorn Gingersnap

  • Submitted by Stephanie Espinal, Albany
  • This is a cookie that leaves your mouth tingling. It brings some heat with Chinese five-spice powder, Szechuan peppercorns and fresh ginger. The molasses cool everything down.

Stephanie Espinal - winner of cookie challengeFrom Stephanie Espinal, Albany

Why this cookie is beloved: These aren’t gluten free or vegan and are pretty indulgent so they’re definitely naughty! It’s a twist on the classic Christmas gingersnap with Chinese Five Spice and Szechuan Peppercorns for a tuned up version of those familiar warm spices of the holidays. These are also a beautiful addition to holiday cookie trays or swaps as they bake with smooth tops and can be finished with royal icing and coarse sugar.

The recipe was adapted from Epicurious.com/Gourmet magazine to which I added real ginger, molasses and additional spices.

Szechuan Peppercorn Gingersnap
Yield: Makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons whole Szechuan peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses (could substitute barley syrup if you don’t want it too sweet)
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg

  1. In a small sauté pan, toast Szechuan Peppercorns until fragrant, about 2 minutes. In a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind peppercorns to a fine powder. 
  2. Whisk together flour, five-spice powder, ground peppercorns, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat grated ginger with 1/4 cup sugar.
  4. Add molasses, butter, egg, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar to mixer and blend until mixture is thick and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add flour mixture and mix on low just until a dough forms. Form dough into a disk and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 8 hours to allow flavors to develop.
  5. Bake and ice cookies: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Quarter dough. Keeping remaining 3 pieces wrapped in plastic wrap and chilled, roll out 1 piece of dough on a lightly floured sheet of wax paper with a lightly floured rolling pin to 3/4 inch thick. (If dough becomes too soft to roll out, chill on wax paper until firm.) Cut out rounds with cutter and transfer to 1 lined baking sheet, arranging cookies about 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake cookies until slightly puffed and a shade darker, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on sheet. If desired, make holes with piping tip near edges to hang cookies, then transfer cookies (still on parchment) to a rack to cool completely. (Cookies will flatten slightly as they cool.)
  8. While first batch is baking, roll out and cut another batch, arranging cookies on second lined sheet. Bake in same manner, then gather scraps and chill until dough is firm enough to reroll, 15 to 20 minutes. 8. Make more cookies with scraps (reroll scraps only once) and remaining pieces of dough, cooling sheets and lining them with fresh parchment before using.
  9. If using icing and coloring it, transfer small batches of icing to small bowls, 1 for each color, and tint with food coloring. Spoon each color of icing into a separate pastry bag, pressing out excess air. Twist bag firmly just above icing, then decoratively pipe icing onto cookies. Let icing dry completely (about 1 hour, depending on humidity) before serving or storing cookies.