Baba’s Pepper Cookies

In my current work in progress, Breaking Bread, my main character, Maya Kaminsky bakes a batch of her grandmother’s (Baba’s) pepper cookies. I thought it would be fun to share the recipe for them, since they are one of my favorite cookie varieties. This is a Russian, Eastern European cookie, so-named for the pepper and spices in the mix. It may sound like a strange combination, but trust me, these are amazing!

Pepper Cookies


1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
3 eggs
4 cups flour
1 cup milk
1 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
12 ounces chocolate chips


Melt butter in milk in small sauce pan.
Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat eggs together with oil.
Make a ‘well’ in the center of the blended ingredients and add beaten eggs and oil, melted butter and milk and mix to form dough.
Knead in the chocolate chips.
Form dough into small balls, (golf ball sized or smaller) and bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.
Cool completely before icing.


16 ounces confectioner’s sugar
milk (amount varies according to desired consistency of the icing)

Add milk to confectioner’s sugar a little at a time, to form icing. Icing consistency should be the similar to ketchup – pourable but not watery. You want it to coat the cookie and not run off but also not be creamy like cake icing.

Dip the tops of the cookies into the icing and let rest on cooling rack until icing sets completely. Enjoy!


Malört Abort

Week 36 in The Year of Drinking Adventurously. Malört. And what is it? You guessed it, FAIL!

I had hopes for this week but alas, my search for malört locally was fruitless. Perhaps one of my Chicago friends would be able to comment on their impression of malört. (Boy, spell check really hates that word…) Or perhaps Lula had the chance to try it on her recent trip to Chicago. There’s little chance of finding it outside the region on The Malört Map.

Jeppson’s Malört Map
The thing that intrigued me about it is that, like absinthe, it is also a wormwood derived spirit. Malört is actaully the Swedish word for wormwood. Now you know I love my absinthe, so you can imagine my disappointment.

Once again, I was left wondering what to write about this week. I could have just regurgitated our guide’s description and explanation of the spirit, but you are certainly capable of reading all about it yourselves, in the book you have now purchased, right?

So let’s take a slight deviation from the booze path and talk about something else. Cake. But not just any cake… Guinness Chocolate Cake. Oh yessssss……

Guinness is an Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness (1725–1803) at St. James’s Gate, Dublin. Its signature burnt flavor is derived from roasted, unmalted barley and its thick creamy head comes from mixing the beer with nitrogen and carbon dioxide when poured. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect flavor and texture for a decadent dessert? Here’s the recipe:


1 ¼ cup Guinness stout
¹⁄³ cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1 ²⁄³ cups flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, shaved or chopped


¾ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips


  • In a sauce pan, bring Guinness and molasses to a simmer, then remove from heat and allow to cool.
  • Preheat oven to 350º
  • Cream together butter and brown sugar
  • Add eggs one at a time until fully blended
  • In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt
  • In a mixer, alternate adding flour mixture and Guinness/molasses mixture the creamed sugar and butter, beginning and ending with flour
  • Stir in chopped chocolate
  • Grease bundt pan then dust with cocoa
  • Pour in batter and bake 45-50 minutes
  • Cool completely before removing from pan
  • To make glaze: bring cream to a boil, then remove from heat
  • Add sugar and whisk
  • Add chocolate and let stand 1 minute
  • Whisk until melted and smooth
  • Let cool 5 minutes before glazing cake

Eat while wearing stretchy pants. Or no pants at all, completely up to you. Trust me, this cake is amazing!

Disclaimer: that is not my photo, I’ve never taken a photo of the cake, but I swear that is what it looks like. This photo is from a website called ‘No Empty Chairs’