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Christmas and Winter Holiday Cookies: Pfeffernüsse
Submitted by Pam on Sat, 08/24/2013 - 00:45
Pfeffernüsse! Lovely, fragrant, tasty Pfeffernüsse! One of the oldest spicy cookies in northern Europe and known and beloved by the Dutch as Pepernoten! Translation of both words - "pepper nuts"!
I have only recently just become a big fan of these little bite size cookies. Previous attempts at making them many years ago resulted in cookies that smelled divine, were hard as rocks and thus very disappointing. But, Pfeffernüsse is considered THE Christmas cookie throughout Germany and Belgium, and in addition there is that great love the Dutch have for them during the St. Nicholas celebration, so I have never completely given up looking for recipes!
Happily, I persevered because in this post I am sharing four delicious variations of this holiday treat!
Actually, I imagine that being rather hard is part of what Pfeffernüsse/Pepernoten are all about - at least in the Netherlands where Sinterklaas' helpers are charged with the task of tossing the bite size nuggets through every front door on the street to let eager children know that the beloved old saint has arrived in their neighborhood. Obviously, the cookies must tolerate rattling around in a bag and then being hurled at who knows what piece of furniture!
But there are no tossing quality cookies here! They are firm to be sure but also tender and absolutely spicy heaven on the tongue!!
Generally speaking, Pfeffernüsse are baked well ahead of the holidays and stored in airtight tins to allow the flavors the blend and the cookie to mellow. And for some of the recipes I am sharing here, that is absolutely a very good idea! Store at least a month.
However, the recipe I am sharing from Martha Stewart is so darn delicious - even right out of the oven, you will have to hide the tin especially well to have any left to enjoy during the holidays - and that includes hiding it from yourself.
Pfeffernüsse/Pepernoten are one of the easiest, easiest, easiest holiday cookies to make! Basically combine the butter and sugars, and stir in the spices and flour and you are ready to bake! In most cases it is not even necessary to chill the dough!
Roll the little cookies into 1" to 1-1/4" balls and bake! But do not over bake! Watch them carefully and remove from the oven the minute they become firm to the touch. If you over bake, you could wind up with a cookie that when tossed through your front door would likely leave a dent in the fireplace!
Granted, as you can see above, they may not take awards for the most beautiful cookie on the plate, but once they are dusted with a lovely snowy coat of confectioner's sugar, they look quite pretty!
Most of the recipes I am sharing may be a little too spicy for many children but certainly try at least one batch - more for you if you don't have to share!!
RECIPES FOR PFEFFERNÜSSE/PEPERNOTEN
Pfeffernüssen from Martha Stewart : recipe here
Notes: This is hands down my favorite Pfeffernüsse! The cookie is tender, delicious, and this one can be enjoyed right out of the oven!!! No storing necessary. It's that good!
Taking my cookie tester role seriously, I stored the batch in an airtight tin for a whole month - but other than a slight change in flavor they didn't change much. They really, really can be eaten as soon as they are cool enough to roll in sugar!!
I love these so much. I have to admit that only about half the batch made it through the whole month - I just could not help myself! Well actually I DID help myself!
What do I love about this cookie? Everything! The dough is quick and easy to mix, does not have to be chilled before rolling into balls and baking. The dough is a dream to work with - not sticky.
I also love that this makes a small batch so if they don't work for your family, you haven't made a commitment to 25 dozen cookies! And I love Martha's trick for dusting with confectioner's sugar! OMG! I will never go back to a sugar coated work surface - and sugar coated floor and glasses and apron - again!!
Would I make them again? Definitely! Every year!
Pfeffernüsse Cookies from Kitchen Riffs: recipe here
I can't really tell most Pfeffernüsse apart!! But I promise the cookies in the image above are not Martha's!!
Notes: What do I love about this cookie? In a word - anise seed! There are 4-5 Tablespoons of anise seed in the recipe - along with allspice, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
The dough is very easy to mix and handle while rolling into balls.
And when these cookies come out of the oven, they are like tiny little anise flavored spice cakes. I adore anise and for me, the anise flavor seems most pronounced within the first week after baking. To be honest, I like them best before long storage.
The author of this recipe comments that the cookies harden shortly after baking and then soften over time. This was not my experience - they never actually reached a "hard" stage. And I know that because I was in that cookie tin often!
What don't I like about this cookie? Only that the recipe makes a lot of cookies - which is good if you like them!!
Be sure to take the time to link over and read the recipe because it is one of the most entertaining recipes I have ever read!!
Would I make them again? Yes!
Pepernoten from Katie at "I'm A Table" blog: recipe here
Notes: Katie joined in on one of my cookie recipe exchanges (find buttons on the sidebar of this blog) and shared this recipe for Pepernoten. And as it turns out, the recipe is very similar to the two above except that her recipe call for a touch of orange essence.
Is there anything more intoxicating that the fragrance of orange and spice?
The original recipe apparently calls for finely chopped candied orange, but like me, Katie is not a huge fan of "bits" in her Pepernoten and uses orange essence. I do not keep orange essence on hand but I do always always have Fiori de Sicilia from King Arthur flour in my fridge. I used a scant 1/4 teaspoon. Hint: when using Fiori de Sicilia the first time in a recipe, err on the side of too little. Use too much and the flavor can be overpowering. Fragrance is divine but too much for the ole taste buds!!
What do I love about this cookie? Orange spicy fragrance when you take them out of the oven and orange spicy taste when you eat them!
The cookie is crunchy on the outside and cake like in the center. And very good right out of the oven. The recipe does not call for these to be dusted with powdered sugar, but I am sure if you wish to do so it won't hurt - unless of course you are intending to toss them about the house!
What I don't love about this cookie? Only that after storing, it does seem to get quite firm. Not hard but firm and becomes a great dunking cookie. My sweetheart loves them!! These are his favorites.
Would I bake these again? If I want to stay married!!
Mom's Pfeffernüsse from Carol A Buck and tested by Good Housekeeping: recipe here
Carol mentions in her notes about the recipe that it is "unlike any Pfeffernüsse" she has ever tried. "They have a spicy orange flavor and melt in your mouth". That sold me on the idea of trying them!! And she is absolutely right - her cookies are completely different from any of the others shared here and likely have the best chance of being kid friendly!
The cookie as you can see is quite different from the others in both shape and color. The absence of molasses and brown sugar in this recipe makes for a lovely light colored cookie with that unmistakable Christmas holiday fragrance of citrus and spice. Both lemon extract and grated orange peel are called for; however, again, I used Fiori de Sicilia - a scant 1/8 tsp. in addition to the lemon extract.
What did I love about this recipe? The taste! And they were quite quick to roll out and cut into little pillows! And it is true they do melt in your mouth - IF you are careful to measure your flour accurately (use a scale and weigh your flour or sift your flour before measuring), and you are careful not to over bake. Lightly browned means lightly browned.
What did I not love? Only that the author is quite right - the dough is sticky even after it's 'time out' in the fridge. So it is necessary to use plenty of flour when rolling. I would not recommend re-rolling any scraps - they would most likely yield a tough cookie.
Would I bake these again? Yes! Because fussing with sticky dough is a small price to pay for a plate of these delicious cookies and a mug of cinnamon laced coffee!
Don't forget - links to more delicious holiday cookies from around the world can be found right here in "Christmas and Winter Holiday Cookies from Around the World". I am just beginning the adventure - this is cookie number two! We will explore four delicious Pepperkakor recipes next month! And additional cookies each month from now till Christmas and beyond!!!
If you have a family recipe for Pfeffernüsse or Pepernoten you are willing to share, you are invited to place a link in the comments.