MNF – Pfeffernusse, Say What?


Pffernusse -3 with 1 cut

During December, most of us get busy baking Christmas cookies: balls, bars, shapes, sandwich cookies, and even some that have tiny holes in the top so they can be hung as ornaments on your tree (and maybe some special ones for the family pet)! So we thought it might be fun to give you some recipes that might be a little new to you, or, at least a new twist on ones you’ve already seen. So….here goes!

Have you figured out what this is about? If you are of German heritage, you knew the minute you saw the word! Pfeffernusse – pronounced: feffer-nooss – is a famous German Christmas cookie and the word literally translates to Pepper Nuts!

These cookies are delightfully peppery but also sweetly spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves – all the spices traditional for holiday baking. You will find them coated with a glaze or more simply, rolled in powdered sugar. Either way (or both ways), they’re a great addition to your cookie exchange, a ‘gift from your kitchen’, or to nibble on with a cup of coffee or tea.

Try them – I think you’ll enjoy them. I’ve given you the recipe for the glaze as well if you want to try them both ways!

PS: Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients … you probably have most – if not all – of them in your pantry. If not, don’t forget the Savory Spice Shop can sell you just a small amount that you need!

Pfeffernuss and Glaze

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. finely ground black pepper (freshly ground is best)
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed aniseeds
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup light molasses (preferably unsulfured)
  • 1 egg
  • Approximate 2 cups powdered sugar for dusting or 1 Recipe Pfeffernuss Glaze (see below)

In a medium bowl, sift together flour and next 8 ingredients (through cloves). Set aside.

In a large bowl with electric stand mixture, combine butter, brown sugar and molasses and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the egg just until blended. At low speed, add flour mixture, a little at a time, mixing well before adding more. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours for flavors to blend.

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or butter them well.

Scoop up dough and make balls approximately 1-1/2” diameter and set them on the prepared cookie sheets spacing them about 2” apart as they will spread a little (but they will stay round balls).

Bake about 15 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown and cookies are firm to the touch. If they crack, that’s normal. Place cookie sheets on racks for about 2 minutes. If you are going to glaze them, gently place cookies on racks to cool. If you want them dusted with powdered sugar, place sugar in a paper bag and put a few cookies in and shake the bag, coating the cookies, then place on the rack to finish cooling. Or, put the powdered sugar in a deep bowl and put a few cookies at a time into the bowl, turning the cookies over several times until well coated, then place on the rack to cool. Continue until all cookies are coated. When completed cool, give them another coat of powdered sugar so they are heavily coated and brightly white.

Makes about 2-1/2 dozen cookies

Pfeffernuss Glaze

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

Combine the egg white, corn syrup and cardamom in a 1 quart mixing bowl. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until the glaze has a soft frosting consistency.

In a separate bowl, place about 2 Tbsp. of the glaze and 5-6 of the cookies, stirring them around until the cookies are completely covered in the glaze. Using 2 forks will help. Place the coated cookies on a rack with waxed paper under (to catch any drips). Add more of the glaze as needed and continue until all cookies are well coated.

NOTE: This glaze recipe makes enough for about 9 dozen cookies – about 3 times the recipe for the cookies themselves. So, if you plan to double the recipe or make it again soon, you can use the same leftover glaze. Or, use the glaze as a frosting or glaze on other cookies or on Bundt cakes, steamed puddings, or 1/2 tsp. in your coffee!

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2 Responses to MNF – Pfeffernusse, Say What?

  1. GodlessK says:

    I just made these for Christmas and my family absolutely loved them, even though mine turned out just the slightest bit overcooked. I used a scoop to make them uniform in size and it was just a little smaller than the baking time here works for. I took that into account and took them out a minute earlier but it still wasn’t quite right. They were still good and everybody was happy with them so I didn’t let on. Thanks for sharing this recipe with us.

    (I had enough dough left to make eight more the next day so I made them the same size but baked that batch for just 13 minutes and they turned out perfectly.)

    • When changing the size of cookies (or cakes for that matter) always adjust the time and/or temperature slightly to compensate. Better to put them back in for a minute or two (or more if a cake) than have them overdone! Glad you liked them. They’re one of my favorites, too.

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