Made from Scratch

Sugar cookies, reimagined for the holidays

Devotees of Durham's new Scratch bakery turn out for the pies–and with good reason. Former Magnolia Grill pastry chef Phoebe Lawless creates stunners like buttermilk-sweet-potato pie that show off the genius of her sweet-meets-savory approach. But her sugar cookies prove she's perfected more than pie. Instead of adorning them with sprinkles or colored frosting, Lawless rolls the dough in a mix of sugar, salt and ground peppercorns to give the cookies a surprising spark. A dozen boxed with a bag of peppercorns and a recipe card will make for a standout DIY holiday gift.

Recipe adapted from Phoebe Lawless, Scratch Bakery, Durham, North Carolina

Salt-And-Pepper Sugar Cookies
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Salt and pepper sugar cookie recipe from Durham's Scratch bakery
Servings
4
dozen cookies
Ingredients
  • Cookies
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Rolling Mix
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • Pinch sea salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon all-purpose flour
Directions
  1. Make the dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and salt at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined, scraping the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 stages, beating at low speed until each addition is just combined. Divide the dough in half and flatten each portion into a disc. Wrap the discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Make the rolling mix: In a spice mill, grind the peppercorns with the sea salt until fine. In a small bowl, whisk the pepper mixture with the sugar and flour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375˚ and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the rolling mix onto a clean work surface. Dust the rolling pin and the top of 1 disc of the dough with additional rolling mix. Roll the dough out until it is ⅓-inch thick. Using a 2-inch cookie cutter, punch out the cookies. Reroll the scraps and punch out the remaining cookies. Repeat with the other disc of dough.
  5. Arrange the cookies one-quarter-inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake the cookies until the edges are golden brown, about 8 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after 4 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Serve the cookies immediately or store in a resealable container for up to 1 week.
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