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.