December 22, 2008

Pfeffernüsse or Pepper-Nut Cookies

I have been baking up a mini-storm of cookies over the past week mainly for gifting. After so much of sugar laden baking, I was just looking for something different to bake when I came across Pfeffernüsse which translates to Pepper-Nut cookies in English.

Reading up on this cookie tells me that it finds a presence as traditional Christmas fare in many European countries and also the U.S. I understand they are called Pfeffernüsse in Germany (though they are Eweißgebäck in South Germany), Pebernødder in Denmark, Pepperkakkor in Norway, Pepparnotter in Sweden and Pipparkukas in Latvia.

I also discovered a whole lot of recipes for this spiced cookie, using a variety of spices and sweetening agents, with some variations calling for the cookies to be rolled in powdered sugar after baking. These cookies mostly seem round, dark in colour and a bit on the harder side, though I saw some flattish ones too.
One thing that all the recipes I saw had in common was a variety of spices and black pepper, though a couple of them used white pepper.

Now I have no idea as to which would be an authentic version as I have never seen, heard of, or eaten these cookies till I made them. I do feel that since these are spice cookies, the original recipe would have been about highlighting them rather than camouflaging these flavours under others.

So I used a recipe for Swedish Peppernut Cookies I found at Kat’s blog, A Good Appetite. I made a few changes to the original recipe. I used honey instead of corn syrup, almonds instead of filberts/ hazelnuts and substituted the egg with flaxseed. I also halved the recipe and increased the amount of black pepper and other spices.

If you have never had this cookie before (like me), the number of spices in it would perhaps make you wonder how the cookie would turn out. Let me assure you that the spices blend very well in this cookie and the black pepper is a hardly noticeable taste. Here is my adaptation of Kat’s recipe which was adapted from Woman’s Day, Dec 1971.


½ cup butter, at room temperature (I used salted butter)

¼ cup + 2 tbsp sugar

1 ½ tsp honey

1 ½ tsp flax seed meal in 2 tbsp warm water (or ½ egg)

¾ tsp powdered cinnamon

¾ tsp powdered clove

¾ tsp powdered ginger

¾ tsp powdered cardamom

¾ tsp freshly crushed black pepper

1 tsp baking soda

1 ½ cups + 4 tbsp all purpose flour

some milk if the dough is too dry (optional)

blanched and halved almonds


Sift the flour and baking soda and keep aside.
Cream the butter with an electric mixer. Add the sugar and honey and beat till fluffy. Now add the flaxmeal + water/ egg and spices and mix well.

Add the sifted flour and mix till well belnded. I found the mixture a bit dry and was not able to bring it together as a dough. So I sprinkled a few tsps of milk to form a dough.

My method of shaping these cookies is slightly different from the original recipe.
Pinch off small pieces of dough, a little larger than a marble, and using both palms of your hands press the dough and roll each piece into a smooth ball. Flatten slightly and press a blanched almond half on top of it. Similarly shape the rest of the dough into cookies and place on a greased cookie sheet. They can be placed close together as they do not spread very much on baking.

Bake them at 180C for 15 to 18 minutes till they start looking golden. The under side of the cookies will be darker brown. Cool completely on a rack.

These cookies are a bit dry, lightly crunchy on the outside and softer on the inside. Letting them age for a 3 or 4 days improves the flavour of these cookies.
This recipe gave me 30 cookies.

These cookies go to Meeta’s Monthly Mingle where this month’s theme is the World of Spice Cookies.


indosungod said...

They look amazing and sounds very interesting and I am curious as to how they would taste. yes. The only idea I have is our own jeera cookies.

Aparna said...

They are not too sweet with a hint of all the spices in them.
Perfect with a cup of coffee/ tea, though the original post suggests a glass of milk.

Sunshinemom said...

I use all these spices in my spice mix but am a little partial to cinnamon! I must make this too - the ingredients are so good, and the result looks great too! Nice jar there:)

Smitha said...

Thats a lot of spice! Very novel recipe for me.. a must try!

Curry Leaf said...

Perfect cookies Aparna,this is the 4th cookie u r posting this month.I can only imagine the aroma from your kitchen.this cookie looks spicy and not too sweet as you said.Perfect for me tgh.

Nags said...

i am not a spicy cookie lover. for me its the butter and sugar that makes it worthwhile :)

Soma said...

What lovely spices Aparna. i esp. like the use of black pepper. Kinda of tired of eating all these sweet sweet cookies. I wish I could taste one of these now.

BTW: after i showed my daughter your snowflake cookies, she was whole heartedly wishing that I learn to bake like u.. ( & so was I ) :-)

Bharti said...

Lovely as usual Aparna. I can almost smell the aroma from your kitchen.

jayasree said...

Perfect spice cookies. I love these. With all those variety of spices in it, I can imagine the flavor of the cookies.

Uma said...

mmm. spicy cookies. I would love to have the whole batch. look lovely.

Purnima said...

Hey Aparna, wishing you and your family a very Merry X'mas n a Prosperous n Happy New Year!
Loved all the items prepared by you! Missed out following the blog since days!!Tks for sharing such wonderful visual treats n recipes!!

kat said...

I'm glad you enjoyed them. They are always a favorite in my family

Vaishali said...

These look so melt-in-your-mouth delicious, Aparna. I must say I've never tried making Pfeffernüsse but just the thought of the spicy pepper has set my tastebuds tingling. Divine.

Rajani said...

aparna-this sounds really different, and good infact!

Cham said...

These spice cookies are sure to please everyone for this season :)

MeetaK said...

Spectacular Aparna! I really like the German version of pfernüsse and this looks great. A lovely entry! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

They are not too sweet with a hint of all the spices in them.