Tag Archives: pfeffernuesse

{3} Pfeffernüsse

For the third part of the “Twelve Goodies of Christmas” I’ve made another of the festive classics – German Pfeffernüsse.

This is a classic version of the recipe, which contains a lot of spice and good amount of freshly ground black pepper. These pack a bit of a punch, but that is the way I like them – you often eat them with a glass of mulled wine, so they need to be able to hold their own and provide some contrast to the sweetness of the wine.

I’ve also jazzed up the decoration of these cookies – rather than just simple white icing, I added a sprinkling of crushed red peppercorns. This makes for a jaunty little festive touch and a little extra bit of extra peppery punch. It’s warm and aromatic, but without being too hot.

I made these last year, but as I recently did with my Aachener Printen, I’ve put a bit of effort in to getting the right ingredients, specifically the raising agent. In this case, it’s ammonium bicarbonate. Read more about it here, but essentially it gives more “lift” to biscuits, but it comes at a price – it stinks during the baking process! The strange aroma does vanish once the cookies have cooled, but it certainly livens up the process.

On balance, I think that it does make a difference – the texture is lighter, the resulting cookies are softer. Baking powder works, but ammonium bicarbonate is better if you can get hold of it. Look online, or I’ve put a source in London at the bottom of the recipe.

Now, you may ask, is it not a little early to make these things? Well, like a lot of spicy cookies, they get better if you store them for a while. So with them iced and decorated, these little fellows are tucked away in a box, waiting for Christmas.

To make Pfeffernüsse (makes around 20-25):

• 125g honey
• 50g brown sugar
• 25g butter
• 225g plain flour
• 50g ground almonds
• 1/2 teaspoon ammonium carbonate(*)
• 1 egg
• 2 heaped teaspoons Lebkuchengewürz or mixed spice
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Making the cookies:

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and grease lightly.

Put the honey, sugar and butter in a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has melted. Leave for a couple of minutes to cool slightly.

In the meantime, in a large bowl combine the flour, ground almonds, ammonium carbonate, spices and pepper. Stir in the honey mixture and mix well. Add the egg and keep mixing until you have a smooth but sticky dough.

Using damp hands, divide the dough into around 20-25 portions – each should be the size of a small walnut. Roll each cookie into a ball between your hands (keep them moistened with water) and place on the baking sheet. Bake for around 10-12 minutes until puffed and just starting to brown.

Icing the cookies:

• 200g icing sugar
• 4-5 tablespoons kirsch, rum or water
• crushed red peppercorns

Put the icing sugar and kirsch/rum/water in a bowl. Mix well until you have a smooth, thick paste. It should just flow. Dip each cookie in the icing, then transfer to a wire rack to dry. Sprinkle some crushed peppercorns over the iced biscuits.

To get ammonium carbonate in London, you can buy this from Scandinavian Kitchen in the city centre (61 Great Titchfield Street, London W1W 7PP), tel: 020 7580 7161. Tube: Oxford Circus.

Worth making? I love these cookies. Sweet, spicy and very festive looking. Perfect with a glass of mulled wine after a bracing walk in the cold!

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White Pfeffernüsse

Oh dear. It’s been a busy couple of weeks and I’ve gotten rather behind on my posts. I know the moment for Christmas cookies is sort of past, but this is a recipe that I made a few weeks ago and so I’m sharing it in time for…eh…next year!

I recently posted a recipe for Pfeffernüsse using my festive German spice mixture. Great if you like all those spices (which I do!) but this version is different, with much lighter aromas, just using a little cinnamon and a pinch of pepper, and some lemon zest for a fresher note.

The method is also different – rather than a classic gingerbread-style recipe involving boiling up sugar and honey to make a basis for the dough, you whip eggs and sugar, then add the rest of the ingredients. The resulting cookies are lighter (in texture, I make no promises about the calorific value), and if you’re entertaining kids, this is also the messier – and therefore more fun – option. The resulting cookies are lighter in colour (as they don’t contain treacle) and so once iced, they take on a brilliant white colour.

I also replace some of the flour with ground almonds, to add to the flavour and keep the cookies softer. However, once made, these biscuits can have a tendency to become hard. In which case, just pop into a box with a slice of apple (don’t let it touch the biscuits), and after a day or so, they will be soft and aromatic.

To make White Pfeffernüsse (makes around 20):

• 1 egg
• 100g white caster sugar
• 20g ground almonds
• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• generous pinch white pepper
• zest of 1/2 lemon
• 130g plain flour
• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180°C (355°F). Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and rub with butter or non-stick spray.

Whisk the egg and the sugar until light and creamy (about 2 minutes). Add the cinnamon, white pepper and lemon zest to the bowl, and mix well.

Combine the flour, ground almonds and baking powder, and fold into the egg mixture until you have a sticky dough.

Using damp hands, form the mixture into balls of 2-3cm, and place of greased baking sheet. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes until puffed up, but not browned. Remove from the oven, and after a minute, transfer to a cooling rack.

Cover the cookies with the icing (you might want to dip them, and do this twice to get a thick but even coating) and allow to dry overnight.

For the icing: 80g icing sugar and 4 tablespoons water (or non-sweet kirsch). Combine and stir well until smooth.

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Filed under Christmas, Recipe, Sweet Things