Black Pepper Gingerbread Penguins with Chunks of Candied Ginger



It’s so strange to think how frequently I’ve moved kitchens in my only 20 something years of living. Most of the time I don’t bother myself with thoughts like this,  but it’s interesting when an item moves with you as you move, and one day when you’re just casually cleaning out a stuffed kitchen drawer and come in contact with it, it puts your life in some strange time perspective. I’ve moved homes and kitchens 8 times just in the past five years, and this little penguin cookie cutter has stayed with me the entire time, despite his fellow animal friends in the pack being lost somewhere else in the world (hopefully with a new and loving family).  I’m happy I always seem to stumble on him around this time of year, and he enthusiastically helps me produce some super cute cookies each time. Couldn’t be more grateful for his silhouette. 🙂



Gingerbread cookies aren’t usually my holiday tradition, but this year, as I found a new love for ginger, putting it in everything from my cocktails to my guacamole with no shame, I’ve liked pairing it with many other spices. The heat it adds is unrivaled, This time I cracked black pepper into the mixing bowl, which made sense to me as I reminisced back on my first time using black pepper and ginger together in something sweet.  It was when I created the recipe for my wonderfully warming turmeric lattes. Find my video here for: Golden Lattes. The rounded flavor was EVERYTHING, and SO it has become second nature to pair the two. 


The two special things I used in this recipe were flax egg (1 part ground flaxseed mixed with 3 parts water) and chickpea water (aquafaba). The water in a can of chickpeas has the same protein structure as egg whites, so whipping them just like eggwhites is not only satisfying but in many cases it yields similar results. Please try it if you haven’t already. (There’s actually a whole Facebook page dedicated to the greatness of “aquafaba”-please Google this phenomenon)  Many of you may know that you need egg whites in royal icing (icing that decorates cookies).  Royal icing is so special because it hardens minutes after you apply it to the surface of your cookie. This is beneficial for many reasons, but the obvious reason is that it’s great for transporting to holiday get-togethers  I get super frustrated by things that don’t dry quickly like cookie icing and painted fingernails. Whenever I don’t have a blue light drying my freshly painted nails, it doesn’t matter how long I blow on them, I always misjudge their dryness and scrape off bits doing something as casual as opening a bottle of water. So if you’re anything like me, please only use royal icing and only get your nails done at a salon. 

And here’s a picture of Chris watching us from the loft, in awe of our cookie decorating skills. 



I create large batches of flax egg that I leave in my fridge so it’s ready to use whenever I need it. Leaving it in the fridge at least overnight creates an extremely egg-like consistency that I never get when I create the concoction just 15 minutes in advance. This recipe calls for a large amount of flax egg (1/2 cup of the prepared mixture). I suggest making a large batch by stirring together 1/2 cup of ground flax with 1.5 cups of water, keep it in a container overnight, mixing it occasionally, and then scoop the 1/2 cup from the container. There will be extra, but it’s so helpful to have around!

  • Dry ingredients:
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 1.5 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoons ground cardamom

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, sifted to remove lumps
  • 1/2 cup sugar in the raw
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup flax eggs (see recipe above)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped candied ginger

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, ground ginger, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom to combine.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl with a handheld mixer, cream together the coconut oil, sifted brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Once fully incorporated and fluffed, add the molasses, vanilla, and flax egg mixture, beating until smooth. With the beater on low, slowly add the dry ingredients. If using a handheld mixer with whisk attachment, it may be easier to switch to mixing with your hands at this point. Add in the finely chopped candied ginger combining with your hands or with a spatula.

Mold the cookie dough into two discs, wrap them each in Saran Wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until ready to use. (I’ve found that 1 hour is great because it chills the dough so it’s not too soft to bake but not too hard to roll.

Set the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove one of the discs from the Saran Wrap, and place between two sheets of parchment or wax paper.  Using a rolling pin (or a Saran wrapped wine bottle if you’re the me in my early twenties) roll the dough out into 1/4-1/3 inch thickness depending on how chewy or crunchy you want them (thin=crunchy). Dip the cookie cutter you’re using in flour, and punch out shapes in the dough.  Place on a cookie sheet keeping at least 1/2 inch between each cookie (they won’t spread so don’t worry too much), and bake for 8-10 minutes or until puffed and brown.  Roll the unused dough back into a ball, and roll out again, repeating until all the dough is used. You will need to do this in batches, so keep the dough refrigerated until ready to roll again.

To make the icing:

  • 1/4 cup of water from a can of chickpeas (a can has approx. 1/2 cup water so use half of the can)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • Food coloring of choice

In a clean metal bowl with a handheld mixer, beat together the chickpea water (aquafaba) and vanilla extract until completely frothy. Add in the powdered sugar one cup at a time beating until smooth.

Separate the icing into little bowls and mix with food dye until you achieve the desired color. Transfer to Ziploc bags, cut off a tiny piece of the tip of the bag, and pipe onto cookie. Allow at least 20 minutes to dry completely.

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