One of Germany’s most beloved and popular Christmas cookies, these delicious iced gingerbread treats are one of my all-time favorite! Crunchy on the outside, soft, spicy and chewy on the inside, Pfeffernüsse are just simply divine and hard to stop eating.
Pfeffernüsse, which literally translates into ‘pepper nuts,’ are small spiced cookies that develop their flavor through a blend of aromatic spices like cinnamon, anise, nutmeg, cardamom and cloves. Even though some recipes call for dusting the cookies with powdered sugar, the authentic version of these cookies actually call for a hard powdered sugar iced glaze. Despite the cookie’s name, Pfeffernüsse actually do not contain nuts, but rather earn their name due to their walnut-like shape. They do however contain pepper, white pepper to be exact, which adds to the cookie’s aromatic flavor.
The origin of the cookie is not really known. Many link it to the feast of Nikolaus or St. Nicholas Day, where children receive gifts after cleaning their shoes. Throughout Europe many countries observe the day, even though its day varies from December 5th or December 6th. Nevertheless, in Germany Pfeffernüsse are only eaten during Christmas time. You can find them in any grocery store, but the home-made kind are always the best. Especially if you let the cookies sit for a week, since the flavor of the gingerbread get only more pronounced and better with time.
Pfeffernüsse Rezept or Recipe
- 280 grams or 2 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 TL or 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 Messerspitze or 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 3 bis 4 TL or 3-4 teaspoons of gingerbread spice
- 1 Messerspitze or 1/4 teaspoon of ground white pepper
- 27 grams or 1/4 cup of almond meal (ground up almonds with skin on)
- 110 grams or 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
- 110 grams or 1/3 cup of pure honey
- 74 grams or 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 45 milliliter or 3 tablespoons of heavy cream
- 1 Ei or egg
For the glaze:
- 300 grams or 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
- 60 milliliter or 3-4 tablespoons of hot water
- Add the flour, baking soda, salt, gingerbread spice, white pepper and almond meal into a bowl.
- Set aside.
- Combine the brown sugar, honey, butter, and cream in a medium saucepan and melt together over medium heat on the stove. (Stir frequently until sugar is completely dissolved.)
Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
Stir in the flour mixture and mix until combined.
Stir in the egg until thoroughly combined. (The dough will be very sticky.)
- Tightly wrap the dough into a piece of plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator for the night.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove the dough from the plastic wrap.
- Roll the dough into two strands about 2 centimeters or 3/4 inch thick.
- Cut off 2 centimeters or 3/4 inches pieces and roll each into a ball. (Work quickly. If the dough gets too warm, it will be hard to work with.)
- Place the dough balls on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
- Let the cookies cool completely. (For just a plain powdered-sugar coating, roll the still warm cookies in a bowl filled with powdered sugar.)
To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and water until smooth.
- Place all the cookies onto a wire rack positioned over a cookie sheet (to make clean up easier) and brush each cookie with the water-powdered sugar mixture.
- Let the excess drip off and let the cookies sit until the glaze is completely hardened.
- Store the cookies in a tin.