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Pfeffernusse Cookies

Pfeffernusse Cookies are a classic German cookie that is full of warm holiday spices. Pfeffernusse is very much like German Lebkuchen-otherwise known as gingerbread. However, they differ from gingerbread in that they are rolled into balls and then glazed with sugar afterward.

pfeffernusse cookies on a platter

December 23 is National Pfeffernusse Day! You must celebrate by making this delicious recipe for pfeffernusse cookies! A home-baked version will be so much better than anything you buy in a store or bakery. And you can bake some to add to your platters of Christmas cookies!

Share the pfeffernusse love on social media today using the hashtags #NationalPfeffernusseDay, #PfeffernusseDay and #RecipesForHolidays.

Be sure to follow my December Food Holidays page so you never miss a food holiday in the month of December!

“A balanced diet is a Christmas cookie in each hand.”

-unknown

The History of Pfeffernusse:

Shared from The University of Wyoming:

The cookie’s exact origins are unknown, but it has been an integral part of Yuletide celebrations since the 1850s in Europe. These cookies are also associated with the Feast of Sinterklaas, celebrated in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. It’s usually held on December 5th or 6th and is a tribute to the life of the patron Saint Sinterklaas (or St. Nicholas), who died on December 5th and dedicated his life to helping others. As the tradition goes, Sinterklaas visits during the night and leaves gifts for the children in their shoes. The next morning children may find chocolate coins or initial letters, candy treats, cookies, nuts, tangerines, and little gifts in their shoes. Everyone hopes for sweets, not coal or a little bag of salt.

ingredients displayed for making pfeffernusse

🛒 Ingredients Needed:

  • butter
  • brown sugar
  • molasses
  • water
  • anise extract
  • cake flour
  • ground cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, mace and cardamom
  • baking soda and salt
  • ground white pepper
  • chopped nuts
  • powdered sugar
  • milk
  • vanilla extract
four photos showing how to make pfeffernusse cookies

✏️ How to make Pfeffernusse Cookies:

*The complete, printable recipe is in the recipe card at the end of this post.

  1. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses, water and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda and salt/pepper. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Stir in the nuts. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Roll the chilled dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2-inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown.
  4. Meanwhile, in a shallow bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Place some more powdered sugar in another shallow bowl. Place some paper towels or waxed paper under wire racks. Move the cookies to the wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. Dip the tops of the warm cookies in the glaze, allow the excess to drip off, and then dip in the powdered sugar. Cool completely on the wire racks. 
overhead shot of pfeffernusse cookies on a round platter

➡️ Tips and Substitutions:

  • If you prefer, you can glaze the cookies and skip the powdered sugar. Or you can use powdered sugar only and skip the glaze!
  • Pfeffernusse is a good with a good blend of warm spices. Feel free to play with whatever spices you have in your cupboard, but don’t skip the addition of traditional white pepper.
  • If you can’t find (or don’t care for) the flavor of anise extract, you can substitute vanilla extract.
pfeffernusse cookies on a platter

✔️ How to Store:

Keep them stored in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 4 days. They may be frozen in the same manner for up to 3 months.

✔️ How to Ship Pfeffernusse:

To ship cookies, place two cooled cookies together back to back. Wrap the two cookies up tightly with plastic wrap. Unless the cookies are very soft and falling apart in your hands, they shouldn’t break or tear during the shipping process because they are confined and have the support from the cookie beneath it.

Place all of the wrapped cookies into a tin or plastic container. Stuff the tin or container with tissue paper, crumpled newspaper, or packing peanuts to keep the cookies snug. Place the tin or container into a shipping box and use more crumbled newspaper or other shipping materials if needed. Then send off!

three stacked pfeffernusse cookies

❤️ What I Love About This Recipe:

  1. There is a ton of flavor in these delicious cookies– so many spices!
  2. I love that they are an easy cookie to make ahead and freeze.
  3. I love the German tradition behind the the cookie.
pfeffernusse cookies with one bite taken out of one of them

Fun Facts about Pfeffernuesse:

  • The name pfeffernusse means “pepper nuts.” The pepper part refers to the white pepper that is added to the dough, which gives these cookies a very unique and flavorful touch. The nuts part refers to their walnut-like shape.
  • One of the best things about Pfeffernusse is that they get better with age, making them the perfect make-ahead Christmas cookie.
  • After the cookies cool, they harden. Sometimes they require dipping into milk or hot coffee to soften them for eating. They will soften with age and their flavors become more intense!
  • Although these cookies are usually compared to gingerbread cookies, there actually isn’t any ginger in pfeffernusse at all!
  • In southern Germany, the dough is made with candied lemon or orange peel, orange or lemon zest and almonds.
pfeffernusse cookies on a platter

Pfeffernusse

Yield: 120 cookies
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 52 minutes

This recipe is great for a cookie exchange since it makes a good amount of little round cookies!

Ingredients

COOKIES:

  • 1 1/4 cups butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon anise extract
  • 6 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 cups finely chopped nuts (almonds, pecans or walnuts)

COOKIE COATING:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • additional powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses, water and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda and salt/pepper. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Stir in the nuts. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Roll the chilled dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2-inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown.
  4. Meanwhile, in a shallow bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Place some more powdered sugar in another shallow bowl. Place some paper towels or waxed paper under wire racks. Move the cookies to the wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. Dip the tops of the warm cookies in the glaze, allow the excess to drip off, and then dip in the powdered sugar. Cool completely on the wire racks. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container. These cookies freeze well too.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 120 Serving Size: 1 cookie
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 73Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 37mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 0gSugar: 4gProtein: 1g

Nutritional information is estimated using a nutrition calculator. It's not likely to be 100% accurate.

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Sunday 25th of February 2024

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