i’ve had a couple “helmet head” pepper plants during the last year (out of about 35 seedlings). my attempts to remove the seed coat proved to be indelicate, i.e., i decapitated the poor little bastards with the cotyledons entirely inside the seed.
that was my stage 2 screw-up. here’s how i screwed up stage 1:
after they germinated via the paper towel method, i thought i was doing the new seedlings a favor by leaving them partially exposed in potting mix. later i learned that i should have buried them a tad deeper, so that the soil-seed friction would allow the seedling to free itself of the seed case.