Monday, December 12, 2011

German Pfeffernusse Cookies

Delectable Pfeffernusse
Pfeffernusse are a traditional German Christmas cookie popular all over Central Europe.  They are rich with spicy flavors and keep well, when stored in airtight containers, for several weeks. Since my husband is Dutch, spice cookies are very much apart of our Christmas cookie baking. Pfeffernusse can be cut from a long roll of dough. They can also be rolled into very small balls and sometimes the dough is rolled out and cut with cookie cutters.  Although these cookies are called "pepper-nut" they do not always include pepper in the list of ingredients. However, many do include a dash to 11/2 teaspoons of black or white pepper. Spice cookies have been baked for centuries and besides pepper, the earliest recipes call  for cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Cloves are often used in Old World Christmas recipes because of their symbolism. They represents the aromatic gifts the Magi brought to the Christ Child.
When I first met my husband, my mother-in-law always had a package of Pfeffernusse in her house at Christmas. My first try at these cookies tasted nothing like these delectable cookies that were baked in the Pepperidge Farm bakery. In fact, they held no resemblance to any good spice cookie. They were hard and tasteless. I went on a search for the perfect Pfeffernusse. I don't know if I ever found the perfect Pfeffernusse but my recipe is a delicious addition to my cookie tray.

Mixing molasses, honey and shortening
dough ready for oven
My beautiful little Pfeffernusse 

So yummy!



1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup margarine
2 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons anise extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup confectioners' sugar for dusting

1. Stir together the molasses, honey, shortening, and margarine in a saucepan over medium heat; cook and stir until creamy. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the eggs and anise extract.
2. Combine the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Add the molasses mixture and stir until thoroughly combines. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Roll the dough into 1 inch size balls. Arrange on baking sheets, spacing at least 1 inch apart.
4. Bake in preheated oven 10 to 15 minutes. Move to a rack to cool. Roll cooled cookies in confectioners' sugar.


  1. Hi Kathy, Thanks for stopping by my kitchen and welcoming me back:) We enjoyed this week's roast and I'm going to be more regular in participating in French Fridays! Pfeffernusse is one of my favorite cookies. Years ago I worked with two German ladies and they would bring them to work in a tin all year long!

  2. Really delicious looking and sounding cookies - just right for the Holidays :)
    Mary x

  3. I do so many Italian cookies and I really need to do these for my husband - love the recipe. Love the cookies.

  4. I cant wait to add these to my cookie baking list. Thanks for sharing.

  5. What an interesting sounding cookie! I'll definitely have to try them.

  6. Pfefferneuses are just SO delicious! Classics for a reason!

  7. Kathy-I can still recall the delicious taste lingering in my mouth from the amazing Pfeffernusse cookies made by a friend while living in Ohio...sooo amazing, so full of flavor from the honey, the molasses, and the special spices.
    Your cookies look absolutely divine, and over the top delicious. Thank you for sharing your incredible treasured recipe!

  8. My husband will be so happy that I now have a recipe for his favorite cookie.

  9. Mmmmm...I love spice cookies and these are beautiful rolled in powdered sugar! I have that same Santa plate for cookies :)

  10. They look pretty perfect to me, Kathy. They sounds so delicious and I like that they keep so long.

  11. Your cookies look so pretty and delicious! I may have to give these a try. Thanks for sharing!

  12. They look like those little butter balls but with all those spices they are certainly different! I bet they taste amazing!

  13. Lovely recipe and it`s so easy ...I will try it for my son:) Congrats!

  14. I just made these from allrecipe and am waiting to bake while they rest in the fridge. I didnt use the anise (had no idea its the tadte and smell of black licorice until i bouggt it) and used vanilla instead. Hope they come out as good as yours look!!

  15. I'm testing Christmas cookies & these caught my eye, this wkend I'll bake up a batch :-)
    Carol from the NW area

  16. These have the exact ingredients I am looking for---cardamon, honey, molasses, anise extract and shortening----this is exactly ---if these taste anywhere as near as they look or sound this will be my new favorite cookie

  17. Glad to see you back on those cookies you make. They look almost easy enuff for me to try LOL xoxoxoxo

  18. Perfect and lovely spices. I use the same ...the only thing is mine has a cup and a half of Almonds, Filberts and Pecans or Walnuts...I use the pecans if I have them. I just made 7 quarts of them and must lay them up for 6 weeks to let the spicey flavors meld. These are beautiful. I have a very old recipe from a book of peppernuts, never met anyone that made them but my childrens friends were always taking handfuls. This year I found Anise star extract though my recipe called for anise star oil. I used it and diminished my 2 tsp pepper for one. My husband noticed it and said he preferred the spice but that was in ten cups flour so it is the exact amount as yours...your recipe is identical but for the nuts. Yum!