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If you have a sweet tooth, watch out! These cookies sandwich a luscious layer of black pepper-flavored dulce de leche between two pieces of coffee-spiked shortbread. The creator of this amazing combo is award-winning pastry chef Paola Valez, who is based in Washington, DC. Valez is also the co-founder of the world's largest bake sale—Bakers Against Racism—which she launched in 2020 amid the Black Lives Matter protests. So far, more than 3,000 bakers from around the globe have participated and more than two million dollars has been raised to help fight racism and support other social justice causes worldwide. If you'd like information on how to get involved, visit bakersagainstracism.com.
Note: The cookies are wonderful with or without the optional decorative icing. To give them extra flair during the holidays or anytime, you can adorn them with edible gold leaf.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
For the shortbread, in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on medium-low speed until fluffy and pale yellow. Turn off the machine, add the powdered sugar and mix on low speed, starting at the lowest speed, until combined. Scrape down the mixture.
In a small bowl, combine the vanilla and instant coffee and stir until the coffee dissolves. Add it to the butter and sugar and mix to incorporate. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed until no flour is visible, then increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is slightly shiny.
On a floured surface, roll the dough to the width and length of a sheet tray (choose a smaller tray for smaller, thicker cookies and a larger tray for larger, thinner cookies).
Carefully transfer the dough to the tray and make sure it's level (you can use a rolling pin or your hands to even it out, as needed). Tidy any rough or uneven edges by shoring them up with a bench scraper or trimming them. To make 18 sandwiched cookies, score the dough into 12 equal sections vertically and 3 equal sections horizontally. (You can adjust the sizes as you like and can also serve the cookies without sandwiching them.)
Parbake for 10 minutes, then cut through the score marks to detach the cookies from each other. Bake until the cookies are light golden brown on the bottom, about 7 to 9 minutes more. Set aside and let cool completely.
For the dulce de leche, in a small bowl, stir together the dulce, pepper and a pinch of salt (if using) until smooth.
For the decorative icing (if using), in a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and 1 to 2 teaspoons milk until smooth and the icing can be drizzled.
To assemble, spread the dulce de leche over the bottom side of 18 cookies. Sandwich with the remaining 18 cookies, bottom-side down, and drizzle the icing (if using) over the tops. Enjoy!