Friday, December 16, 2011

Pfeffernüsse Cookies

For me, the holiday season hasn’t really begun unless and until I reach into my cupboard for several jars of spice. Whether it’s pumpkin pie, gingerbread or cookies, the kitchen isn’t really firing on all cylinders until it’s full of the aromas and flavors of the sweetness of cinnamon, the brightness of nutmeg, the complexity of allspice, the magic of cardamom or the depth of cloves.

Most countries have a long tradition of preparing some sort of spice cookie for the holidays. Some of my favorites are Lebkuchen (Germany), Cuccidati (Italy), Pepparkakor (Sweden) and Basler Brunsli (Switzerland). I’m sure your family has its own must-haves each year.

One cookie I haven’t tried is the Pfeffernüsse from Germany. Translated as “pepper nuts,” these include freshly ground pepper for a more complex spicy sensation. There’s also molasses for the delicious richness so typical of the season.

This recipe is from Williams Sonoma. The cookies are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and are a perfect representation of the holiday spirit. I hope you are well on your way to preparing your cookie platters to the delight of family, friends and neighbors.

Bench notes:
- There are of course lots of different versions of this cookie. Some are finished with lemon glaze rather than confectioner’s sugar, which sounds intriguing.
- I used a #40 ice cream scoop to portion these cookies. It speeds up the process and creates uniform cookies. You can make smaller cookies for a higher yield and bake them 10 – 12 minutes.
- This is always a perfect time of year to check your inventory of spices to make sure they’re fresh. I like to buy in small quantities from my local bulk store.
- If you're like me, you may want to increase the spices if you like more depth. I doubled the cinnamon and used heaping amounts of allspice and nutmeg.

Pfeffernüsse Cookies
adapted from Williams Sonoma Holiday Baking by Jeanne Thiel Kelley
Makes 28 2” cookies

2 1/4 C flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 t crushed anise seed
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t allspice
1/4 t nutmeg
1/8 t cloves
4 oz (1 stick) butter @ room temperature
3/4 C light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 C molasses
1 egg @ room temperature
2 C confectioners' sugar, for dusting (I used much less)

Sift together the flour, salt, pepper and spices.
Beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the molasses.
Add the egg and combine thoroughly. Scrape down the bowl.
Lower the speed and add the flour mixture. Beat just until the dough is nearly combined. Remove from the mixer and finish mixing the dough using a rubber spatula. Place the dough onto a piece of plastic and shape into a disc. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until the dough firms up.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment or silpats. Portion dough into balls 1 1/2” in diameter. Place cookie sheets about 2” apart.

Bake until the cookies are golden brown on the bottom and firm to the touch, about 13 - 15 minutes. Cool slightly on a wire rack. Dust or roll the cookies in confectioner’s sugar.


Jo said...

They look so moist, and sound amazing! :)

Beth said...

These look delish! With a name like "pfeffernusse" you would think they would have more pepper than 1/2 a "peppery" do they taste? I may need to try these asap.

Elizabeth said...

WOW. These look incredible!

The Food Hunter said...

I will have to make these for my husband. He is German and remembers having them as a kid.

Pastry Break said...

I'm catching up on your blog after a spell...these are one of my favorite cookies. Never have found a completely satisfying recipe, though. I like them spicier than most recipes call for. Also,I wonder if I'm alone in liking them best completely hard, either a little stale or a little over-baked. (Maybe because I grew up on packaged ones!)