Christmas to me is the ultimate baking season and there is nothing that says it better than homemade cookies. As I set about discovering and experimenting with new cookie recipes for this year’s festivities, I came across this dainty little holiday treat, which is very popular in Nordic countries like Denmark and Germany. Pfeffernüsse, richly infused with the aroma of freshly ground spices, is not as complicated as it sounds though it may take a few trips to the spice aisle of your local supermarket to get all the spices that go in its making.
The recipe, from Daring Gourmet, also guides you through the making of Lebkuchengewürz, the German gingerbread spice mixture that definitely beats any of those store-bought bottled stuff you might think of using. The complexity of flavors in this particular mix gives Pfeffernüsse its deep characteristic quality which improves considerably as they sit around in the cookie jar waiting to be eaten or packed as edible gifts with lots of cellophane and fancy ribbon. The sugar glaze gives a lovely sophisticated bakery-style finish but feel free to omit if you are keeping close count on your calorie intake this December.
For the Lebkuchengewürz/ Gingerbread Spice
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the Pfeffernüsse Cookie Dough
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kitchen salt
2 teaspoons homemade Lebkuchengewürz
1/4 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
1/4 cup ground almonds/almond meal
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup pure honey
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 large egg, room temperature
For the Sugar Glaze
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons hot water
- To make Lebkuchengewuerz, combine the spices together and store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place.
- This mixture will keep for up to one year but using the freshly ground blend within a few days is optimal.
- For superior flavor result, make the Lebkuchengewuerz mixture by grinding the spices from whole spices.
- In a small bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, ground white pepper and almond meal.
- Add 2 teaspoons homemade Lebkuchengewuerz to the mixture, mix till it is homogenous and set it aside.
- Combine the brown sugar, honey, butter, and cream in a medium saucepan and heat, stirring frequently.
- Stir until melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes. Stir in flour mixture.
- Once incorporated stir in the egg until thoroughly combined. The dough should have a nice glossy sheen.
- It will be very sticky. Turn mixture out onto plastic wrap; wrap dough tightly and refrigerate it overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove dough from the plastic wrap and immediately roll into two strands.
- Each strand should be about ¾ inch thick. Slice into ¾ inch thick rounds and roll each round into a ball.
- Each ball should be about ¾ inch large. Work quickly while dough is chilled and place on a cookie sheet.
- Bake cookies for 15 minutes or till golden brown. Remove and let cookies cool completely on a wire rack.
- To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and water till it is smooth. Dip each cookie in the glaze.
- Let them sit until the sugar glaze is fully hardened. Store the cookies in airtight container in a cool place.
- Cookies will keep for at least 2 weeks and the flavor only gets better over time. Makes about 50 cookies.
Pfeffernüsse – German Iced Gingerbread Cookies