When Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert, brought his foreign tradition of the Christmas tree to Buckingham Palace, there were a host of other German celebratory customs that became popular in the UK after that.
Since then German-style Christmas markets have become regular occasions all over the world, namely because the Germans have some really wonderful traditions. They go all out for the merry season and especially for St. Nicholas’ feast day, December 6th, which these pfeffernüse cookies are also associated with. In keeping with that ethos of making Christmas special these cookies have a delightful, spicy taste that can’t help but put you in a good mood.
Unlike a gingerbread cookie these pfeffernüsse are tender inside, with a lighter texture and fire-y notes from the combination of black pepper and nutmeg. While they aren’t as mild as a snickerdoodle, they are on par with a ginger cookie in terms of spice level.
The dough needs to be chilled for 2 hours before shaping so that the cookies don’t spread too much in the oven. When you unwrap the dough an easy way to make sure you end up with evenly-sized cookies is to cut the dough in a grid using a pizza cutter. Then roll each little square to create cookies that are all the same size.
As they bake the cookies will flatten out some, giving them their signature mound shape.
The coating of powdered sugar on the outside means they have a snowy, wintry look to them. You roll them in the sugar when they are hot and again before serving so they really get covered.
These festive cookies are a joy to nibble on at the holidays, or any time you’re craving a warming taste of German cuisine.
Makes 75 small cookies
3h 50m prep time
17m cook time
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup unsulphured molasses
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 teaspoons ground anise seed
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups confectioners sugar
- Melt together nutter, sugar, molasses, and honey in small saucepan over medium-low heat the stir in ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, anise, cloves, pepper, nutmeg, and salt. Or heat in microwave until melted, heating for only 30 seconds at a time and add spices afterwards. Allow to cool for 20 minutes.
- Once cooled whisk in egg and then fold in flour and baking soda. Press dough into square or rectangle 1" thick and wrap in plastic. Transfer to refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350˚F. Unwrap dough and use pizza cutter to cut into cubes. Roll each cube into a ball then place on lined baking sheets 1"-2" inches apart.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes then allow to cool on the pan for 3 minutes. While cookies are cooling pour confectioners sugar into a bowl. Roll warm cookies in sugar then place on wire rack to cool completely. Roll in sugar again once cooled.
Recipe adapted from Preppy Kitchen.