since I had to make cut-out cookies, and didn't want to do something boring like plain sugar cookies, I decided to look into something more exotic. chocolate shortbread was something I was looking into, but with one secret ingredient..... cayenne pepper!
I used this shortbread recipe and added the cayenne myself (about 1/2 tsp). I omitted the pink pepper, but also added 1 tsp of cinnamon. Instead of the cacao nibs, I finely chopped a bar of dark chocolate (to measure about 1/4 cup) and added that as well. I also recommend not baking these for the full 20 minutes the recipe calls for, because my first batch burnt within 15. I found that 10-12 minutes was about perfect.
....and they were perfect! dark, chocolatey, rich, and just when I thought I should have added more cayenne, BAM the warmth and spice of it comes in strong at the end (but isn't overwhelming). I can't wait to make these again (probably included in christmas baking.)
obviously they were a hit at the party :) (see cookie models below)