Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat it to 350 degrees F.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Whisk the flour, all the spices, the baking powder and the baking soda together.
Put the sugar and zest in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl in which you can use a hand mixer.
Reach in and use your fingertips to rub and mix the ingredients together until the sugar is moist and aromatic.
If using a stand mixer, fit it with the paddle attachment.
Add the butter to the bowl and beat on medium speed until well blended, about 2 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each one goes in. The mixture might look curdled — if so, ignore it.
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a flexible spatula, turn off the mixer, add the dry ingredients all at once and pulse a few times to start the blending. Then mix on low speed until most of the flour is incorporated.
Add the chopped nuts and mix only until the dry ingredients have disappeared into the dough.
Give the dough a few good turns with the spatula to make certain that everything is blended.
Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out level portions of dough or use a teaspoon to get rounded spoonfuls. Shape each mound of dough into a ball between your palms and place onto the baking sheets about 1½ inches apart (these puff but don’t spread much).
Bake the cookies for 20 to 22 minutes, rotating the sheets top to bottom and front to back after 10 minutes, or until the cookies are firm to a gentle squeeze, puffed, cracked, light beige on top and golden brown on the bottom.
Transfer the sheets to racks.
If you’re going to dust the cookies with sugar, allow them to rest for 10 minutes, dust them and transfer them to the racks to cool completely.
If you’re going to glaze the cookies, let them cool completely on the sheets.
To make the glaze and finish the cookies (optional): Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (the water shouldn’t touch the bottom of the bowl), toss in the chocolate and espresso and heat, stirring, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Or do this in a microwave oven.
Remove the bowl from the pan, add the butter and stir to blend.
One by one, dip the tops of the cookies into the chocolate and then, if you’d like, give each a grind of pepper while the chocolate is still wet.
Return the cookies to the racks and let the glaze set. Unless your room is very warm, the glaze will set in about 20 minutes. If you’re impatient, you can hasten the setting by refrigerating the cookies.
The dough can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to
3 days. Dry and firm by nature, the cookies will keep in a covered container for weeks and become even drier and firmer. If they become too dry for you to find them enjoyable, add a wedge of apple to the container, and the cookies will soften overnight. With or without glaze, the cookies can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; if you want to dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar, wait until they’ve defrosted to give them the dusting.
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