Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pfeffernüsse (Pepper Nuts)

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Christmas Day is coming closer and closer. The tree is up and decorated, half of the presents are bought and the grill assembled. You've heard me. Is said Grill. With a capital G. It's December, it's cold and wet (no snow for me at Christmas this year probably) and my wacky mother is holding up her tradition to invite people in the late morning and have the last barbecue of the year. That's how she rolls. Bless her heart.

And by Christmas Day, I actually mean Christmas Eve, which is the 24th December. Unlike in many other countries where the presents are being unwrapped in the morning of the 25., it is all about Christmas Eve here. The family comes together, (religious people may go to a Christmas mass where children usually re-enact the Nativity), you eat and then it is time for gifts (and other religious people may skip the first mass and go to a later one sans Nativity as the latest is usually held at midnight). That is probably the rough plan for many German families. When I was little, one of my gifts always was a board game that we played after the gift giving.

Oh yeah, and the food! What I am about to write will probably make a few people's heart stop for a second. As long as I can think, the dinner on Christmas Eve always consisted of one thing, and I know it is the same in many German families: Potato-Salad and bangers/wieners.
I do not know what the story behind serving a humble meal like this is, though.
The two days afterwards (the official Christmas Holidays) however, Germans usually step it up a notch and prepare more festive meals like duck, goose or roasts.

Coming to the fourth recipe of my 5 Day Christmas Countdown/Bake-a-thon.
This one has really got the Christmas flavours tingling. With allspice, cardamom and ginger, it is a spice-fest. But the kick (or a certain “je ne sais quoi”) is definitely giving the white pepper. Pepper in a biscuit? Yes. But don't worry, it is not hot and the pepper is not overpowering. This really tastes like Christmas to me.

Pfeffernüsse (Pepper Nuts)
You can find the original here (German).

The dough needs to rest over night so it is easy to whip it up in the evening.

  • 275g (9.7 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 generous pinch of baking soda
  • 75g (2.6 oz) butter (or margarine for a vegan version)
  • 3 tbsp. honey (ca. 50g; replace with maple syrup or more dark beet syrup for a vegan version)
  • 75g (2.6 oz) dark beet syrup/molasses (alternative: simple molasses)
  • 75g (2.6 oz) demerara sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1/4 ts ground white pepper
  • 1/2 ts ground dried ginger
  • 1 generous pinch of cardamom
  • 1 generous pinch of allspice
  • 75 g (2.6 oz) icing/powdered sugar 

  1. Mix together flour and baking soda
  2. In a medium pot, boil up butter, honey, dark beet syrup, demerara along with pepper, ginger, cardamom and allspice.
  3. Add flour and quickly stir it up into a homogeneous mass. Let it cool down completely. Wrap it up in cling film/saran wrap and keep in in the fridge over night (the dough can become rather tough but do not fret, that is alright).
  4. The next day, let dough regain room temperature again. Preheat oven to 180°C (355°F).
  5. Roll dough into hazelnut-sized balls and bake on second rack from the bottom for about 12 minutes (the pepper nuts will not rise a lot, so you do not need to leave too much space between the balls while baking).
  6. Let them cool completely. Stir icing/powdered sugar with about 1 ts of water to icing. Brush on pepper nuts.

On the first day, the pepper nuts will be rather tough and crunchy. But keep them in a jar or box for a couple of days and they will soften, developing their spicy flavour.


How do your traditions on Christmas look like?


  1. All of my favorite spices are held withing these lovely...amazing!
    Wishing you a most glorious holiday Tobias

  2. Wow! YOu are an amazingly talented baker! These are delightful! It's been a while since I've had these!

  3. Well I've come late to these, but I am going to make up for lost time and make them immediately. It's been a long time since I had (or even thought about) pfeffernusse. Gorgeous!

  4. Magic of Spice: Looking at your nickname, it does not suprise me you like the spices in here. ;) Happy to here all your favourite ones are found in these. Jackpot!

    Ann: Oh well thank you! There are quite a few 'international' recipes for Pfeffernüsse with many only having the name in common with the real deal. The "old-schooliest" recipes even ask for the dough to sit for a WEEK or longer before baking. I find this recipe and method to still be traditional without testing my patience too much. :)

    eunny: It's never too late for Pfeffernüsse and please tell me how they turned out! But keep in mind that they will really be quite hard the day you make them so unless you like them super duper crunchy, it may take a day or too before your craving can fully be satisfied. ;)

  5. I love these cookies because of spies in it and made before The New Year.
    I forgot to write the name of the blog I got the recipe,
    See you again.


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