Peppernuts (pfeffernusse in German) are little spiced cookies that my grandmother used to make every Christmas.
I loved the taste of them fresh out of the oven, but after a few days they always got hard as a rock and you could barely eat them. So, I wondered if there was a way to preserve the delicious taste while creating something that won’t dry out as easily, and I think I got it! The test might not be perfect, since most of them were gone after only a week, but everyone I talked to said they tasted just right and were surprisingly soft.
To get to this recipe, I used bits of my grandmother’s recipe (namely, the spice blend she used), another family recipe posted by a friend on Facebook, as well as a couple I found online. I combined them all together using my own knowledge of baking, and arrived at a recipe that I felt would retain the flavor while remaining softer than I remember. My uneducated guess is that the inclusion of eggs, brown sugar, and honey helped them stay softer longer.
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 packed cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 3 cups flour, sifted
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- spices (customize to your taste)
- 1/2 tsp. anise oil
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. allspice
- 1/2 tsp. ginger
- 1/4 tsp. cloves
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. white pepper (some recipes omit this; I used black pepper and it was fine too)
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- stand mixer or large bowl and electric mixer
- 2 baking sheets
- cutting board & knives
- parchment paper
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. It should make a very dry dough that barely holds together. Chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking.
- Take a small portion of the dough, and roll into a 1/2 inch roll, then cut into small pillow-shaped cookies. Place cookies on a baking sheet with plenty of room between them. If the dough is sticky and hard to shape, chill it in the fridge for a while.
- Bake for about 8 minutes, until just set. They will be quite soft, but should finish setting quickly after you take them out. The bottoms should be just slightly browned, but not too dark. Sometimes it takes a batch or two to get a feel for when they are done. I usually start one tray, then fill another while the first cooks, then rotate the trays in the oven and repeat. That way I always have a steady stream of cookies in and out of the oven.
- Immediately remove cookies from hot baking sheet and place on parchment paper to cool.
- Once they are cool, store in an airtight container. You can store them up to 1 month, and I hear the flavor gets better the longer they are stored.
2016-12-23 - These were a big hit all around. I think this recipe works well, but I’ll have to see if I can duplicate it again next year.