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Pfeffernusse is a classic German Christmas cookie, also known as Peppernuts. The Peppernut name is in part because the cookies are small, brown, and crunchy like nuts, also due to the combination of pepper and spices that give the cookie a slight peppery bite.

Original Pfeffernusse is made without butter, but modern recipes use a small amount of butter for a softer texture and better flavor. The melted butter in this recipe helps to make a tender cookie, and heating the spices enhances their flavors
Recipe type: Shaped Cookies | German Cookies | Spice Cookies
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • ⅓ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup blanched, slivered almonds
  • ¼ cup candied orange peel
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ to ¾ cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and black pepper; stir to mix. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, over medium low heat, heat butter until melted and starting to simmer around the edge of the pan. Add spice mixture and cook for 15 seconds, stirring constantly so the spices don’t burn. Remove from heat and pour mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add molasses and brown sugar, stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to thoroughly mix. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  3. In a food processor, combine flour, baking soda, salt, almonds, and orange peel. Process until mixture is finely ground, about 1 minute. Set aside.
  4. Add egg to the cooled butter mixture, and mix well to combine. Add flour mixture, and stir just until mixed.
  5. Form dough into a flattened disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.
  6. Remove refrigerated dough from refrigerator. Divide into 8 equal portions and roll each portion into a ball. On a sheet of wax paper shape each ball into log, about ½ inch thick by 10 inches long, by rolling back and forth on the wax paper under the palm of your hand. Place logs on a wax paper lined baking sheet, cover and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 2 large baking sheets; lightly grease with shortening, or line with parchment paper, or line with a non-stick baking mat.
  8. Remove enough dough logs from the refrigerator to bake one pan of cookies Keep remainder of dough logs in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  9. Bake: Cut the chilled logs into 1 inch pieces Place pieces 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake 10 minutes or until cookies are set but not brown. Remove from oven.
  1. While cookies are still hot from the oven, roll each log in about ¼ cup powered sugar until completely coated.
  2. Place cookies on wire cooling racks to let cool. When completely cooled, either roll the cookies in another ¼ to ½ cup confectioners sugar again until completely coated, or use a fine mesh sieve and sprinkle the tops of the cookies with the confectioners sugar, or place sugar and cooled cookies in a resealable plastic bag and give the cookies a quick shake to coat. This second rolling finishes the cookies with a snowy-white topping.
Source: America’s Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies 2010Baggett, Nancy, The International Cookie Cookbook, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, New York, 1988
Recipe Notes
Pan: Two Large Baking Sheets Pan Prep: Lightly Greased or Parchment Lined Oven Temp: 350° Yield: 6½ Dozen Storage: Airtight Container, Room Temperature

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