Pfeffernüsse (Peppernut) Christmas Baking with SusieJ

Measurements [metric]

For the cookie

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • Either:
    • 1/4 c candied ginger, finely chopped
    • 1/4 c citron, finely chopped
  • 1/3 c almonds, ground
  • Either:
    • zest of 1/2 lemon
    • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 1/4 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 c milk

For the glaze

  • 1 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

The first day

Whip together eggs and sugar on high speed until tripled in volume and almost white, about three to five minutes. Finely chop crystalized ginger or citron; grind nuts. Add crystalized ginger (or citron), nuts and lemon zest or extract to egg mixture and mix until combined. Change to the paddle blade. Sift together spices, flour and baking powder, and slowly add to eggs mixture. If the dough is dry and crumbly, add milk one tablespoon at a time until dough holds together. Knead gently for a minute or two until the dough is smooth. Cover and let sit for one day; this step is important to allow the flavors to meld.

The second day

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Form dough into balls about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter; place on a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until browned. Allow to cool 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and lemon juice; add a bit of hot water for a thinner glaze if you like. Dip the tops of the cookies into the glaze and allow excess to drip off. (A cooling rack placed over the parchement-lined baking sheets works well.) Store in an airtight container. These keep for a long time, and the flavor improves with age.

[Cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger and pepper: the spices of Pfeffernuesse, copyright 2014, Susan J. Talbut, all rights reserved]

Pfeffernüsse are as German as cookies get. Spicy like Lebkuchen, firm like Springerle, these cookies come from what the German's call the "Oma Zeit," the grandmother's time. Traditionally, hard cookies like Pfeffernüsse were meant to be dunked into wine during a long session of visiting and cookie eating, according to Chef Fritz Blank of Duex Cheminees.

To be honest, I never liked Pfeffernüsse; one of the main ingredients is citron or orangeat, also known as fruit cake mix. This version is a little new wave, substituting crystalized ginger for the citron, and a little neo-traditional, keeping the ground pepper that gives these "pepper nuts" their name.