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Pfeffernüsse (Peppernuts)

Time has been at a premium these past several months. Working two jobs that are both demanding and time-consuming is a lesson in making hard choices. As in: do I get up and go to yoga class or sleep a little longer? Unfortunately, sleep has been winning out. When you work until midnight, waking up early becomes less of a priority. Whoever coined the phrase, "early to bed, early to rise..." clearly did not work in a restaurant kitchen.

But one thing that I can't let fall by the wayside is my annual cookie bake-off. It's just a non-negotiable part of my life at this point. I pretty much stockpile cookie recipes all year for this occasion. Not that cookies aren't appropriate year-round, but let's just say I think about cookies more this time of year than any other. A little box of assorted cookies is a simple, beautiful, and delicious gift that lets someone know you're thinking of them without resorting to buying body lotion or a cheap scarf that they'll never use. The very fact of being edible makes cookies a superior gift.

I rarely make the same cookie twice. There are just so many irresistible cookies out there, and life is so horribly short, that I feel obligated to try as many new recipes as possible. It's a little Sisyphean, since I know I'll never reach the end of my cookie exploration, but I love it anyway. There are, however, some cookies I make every year. Very few cookies make this list, but the ones that do are especially close to my heart. Among them are my mother's ginger oat cookies and peppernuts.

Peppernuts, or pfeffernüsse, are humble little cookies, but this humility is deceiving. Cloaked in powdered sugar, they are unassuming, and you might pass over them as just another ordinary cookie. Don't make this mistake. Spiked with molasses, brandy, candied fruit, and plenty of spice, peppernuts are perhaps my favorite cookie to make this time of year. They are, in a way, emblematic of the season.

Other articles you might enjoy: Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies, Iced Hermits, Fig Keplers

Pfeffernüsse (Peppernuts)
Makes about 30 to 45 small cookies

Whisk together:
           1 cup all-purpose flour
            1/4 teaspoon baking powder
            1/8 teaspoon baking soda
            1/8 teaspoon salt
            1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
            1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
            1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
            1/4 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
            1/8 teaspoon black pepper (if you like a little more spice, you can use 1/4 teaspoon)
Beat in a large bowl until very fluffy:
           1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
            1/2 cup sugar
Add and beat until well combined:
            1 large egg yolk
Stir in:
           1/4 cup slivered almonds, finely chopped
            1/4 cup finely chopped candied orange peel
            Zest of 1 lemon 
Stir the flour mixture alternately with:
           3 tablespoons molasses
            3 tablespoons brandy (or use bourbon or dark rum)
Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 8 hours, or up to 2 days, to allow the flavors to blend. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease or line 2 cookie sheets. Shape the dough into 3/4-inch balls and arrange about 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool briefly, then roll the still-warm cookies in:
            1/2 to 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
Remove to a rack to cool.



Maria 's picture

Can the German cookies freeze?, how many long time in the freezer?
john's picture

They'll keep for about a month if tightly packed in a freezer bag.

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Crush, using a mortar and pestle or a zip-top bag and a rolling pin (wrap the bag in a kitchen towel and roll over it with the rolling pin):
           2 cinnamon sticks...