Pfeffernusse: Spicy Holiday Cookies

Pfeffernusse: Spicy Holiday Cookies 2



If you’re a fan of gingerbread, you’re going to love these spicy little cookies, that have a German background. With the extra zing coming from pepper/pfeffer, this recipe from a Martha Stewart 2002 Holiday Issue Magazine is a must-have for my family at this time of year.

We all have our holiday traditions, and as kids we always had these cookies at Christmas. I believe my mom insisted on it, and that they were a particular favourite of hers. Something about them seemed very festive, perhaps because we only saw them during this time of year.

Pfeffernusse Cookies

I can still hear the crinkle of their cellophane bag, which in itself conjures up memories of the European deli they came from. When I was very young it was rare to have something store-bought in the house. Mom was an excellent cook and baker – she sure had enough practice raising such a big family! Plus, it just wasn’t done. Any grocery store was indeed a distance from the farm, and money was scarce. Besides, those were different times when almost everything was made at home. That’s just the way it was.

Pfeffernusse Cookies

Although these cookies are not Polish in origin, the fact that my mom knew them at all must be related to her time spent with Germans during the nazi occupation of Poland.

The snowy surface of icing sugar contrasts nicely with the spicy & peppery zing of these German cookies. Excellent served with tea or coffee, these also add interest to any cookie/sweets display.

Pfeffernusse: Spicy Holiday Cookies
Yields 30
The snowy sugar surface of Pfeffernusse contrasts with the peppery flavour of these German cookies. Excellent served with tea or coffee, these also add visual interest to any cookie/sweets display.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
  1. 1 1/4 cups icing sugar
  2. 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  3. 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  4. 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  5. 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  6. 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  7. 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  8. 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  9. 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  10. 3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
  11. 1 large egg
  12. 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  13. 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and place the icing sugar in a brown paper bag.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and baking soda. Set aside.
  4. Place butter, brown sugar, and molasses in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla.
  5. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture; beat until just combined.
  6. Pinch off dough in tablespoon amounts; roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. Arrange balls 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. (Dough can be frozen at this point, covered tightly with plastic wrap, up to 1 month.)
  7. Bake until cookies are golden and firm to the touch with slight cracking, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer sheets to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
  8. Add confectioners' sugar to paper bag. Working in batches, place cookies in paper bag; shake gently until well coated. Let cool completely on wire rack. Store in an airtight container.
  1. *These will freeze very well, perfect to bake in advance.
  2. **I like to weigh my cookies for uniformity (these were .9 ounce) but using 2 spoons, like for any drop cookie, will also work.
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