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Frosted Pink Peppercorn Shortbread


I still don't remember what prompted me to make these cookies. I had been staring at a jar of pink peppercorns. Maybe. But I was in charge of all the sweets for our fundraising dinner and decided to make some pink peppercorn shortbread cookies. Then, because I thought people might find them too savory, I added a dollop of beet-dyed pink frosting. Little did I know that these would be the surprise hit of the nine treats I made. I never even got one; but I'll take my husband's word for it that these were good. And you'll probably seeing these in heart-shape for upcoming Valentines' Day!


Also, I scented these with Aquavit which, despite how long Scandinavians have been making and drinking aquavit, it's largely unknown outside of those countries. It's such a shame because, as a spirit, it's completely beguiling.

The name 'aquavit' derives from two Latin words: aqua vitae and translates to "water of life." The French have a clear brandy eau de vie which means the same thing, but has a very different flavor. I've had more fruit based eau de vie while aquavit is decidedly more spicy. Aquavit has many different recipes and flavor profiles between brands, but the dominant flavor is caraway seeds. This one, from Krogstad, has a strong star anise flavor that I love! It is brilliantly clear with spicy notes and aromas that are smooth and seductive. If you can't find aquavit, feel free to substitute with vodka, gin, or any other clear alcohol; you can also use vanilla extract though that will lend a sweeter note to the cookie.

Ingredients makes approximately 3 dozen 2-1/2" cookies

Shortbread
  • 20 T butter (l-1/4 C or 2-1/2 sticks)
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 T aquavit
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 3-1/2 C flour
  • 1 t pink peppercorns, crushed or ground in a spice mill


Frosting and Finishing
  • 3 egg whites, or more to thin icing
  • 6 C organic powdered sugar, or more to thicken icing 
  • juice from 1 to 2 organic lemons
  • natural food coloring (the red I used was made with beets), optional
  • pink peppercorns for garnish

Procedure

Shortbread
Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in aquavit until well combined. Beat in the egg. Add in the flour and ground peppercorns and mix until everything is moistened.

Roll the dough into a long cylinder. Put the dough in plastic wrap or parchment paper and chill for about an hour, until the dough is firm enough to slice.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough cylinder widthwise into 1/4" slices and place, slightly apart, on the baking sheets. Place in the oven and bake for 16 to 18 minutes until slightly browned. 

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Frosting
Beat the whites until stiff but not dry. Add sugar and lemon juice. Beat for another minute. If the icing is too thick, add more egg whites; if it's too thin, add more sugar. Beat in the food coloring, if using. This icing may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


To Finish
Spoon the royal icing over cooled cookies and push to the edge as much as possible. Crush one pink peppercorn over each cookie. Let icing set before storing or serving.

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