Pfeffernüsse are a traditional German spiced cookie that I grew up eating at Christmas for as long as I can remember. Their name translates to “pepper nut”, so don’t be surprised when you find ground white pepper in the ingredient list below. That is just one of the many delicious spices that give these cookies their amazing flavour. The smell these cookies will fill your house with is reason enough to give these cookies a crack, but once you taste them your mouth will be tingling with Christmas spices.
My mum is German, she came here as a wee 14 year old, so Christmas time for our family has always been filled with a blend of Australian and German classic recipes. The humble Pfeffernüsse cookie is filled with a blend of delicious spices, has a soft and yet chewy like texture with a crisp icing shell on the outside. I say it’s humble because unlike its gingerbread cousin, it doesn’t boast any fancy decorations or require any advanced piping skills. Bonus!
Traditional Pfeffernüsse have a plain vanilla icing shell but to spice these cookies up further I added a dash of orange juice and rind. The orange flavour really compliments the spices in these cookies but you could also try a nice Sherry or lemon juice.
Perfect for gifts, that Christmas dessert platter or simply with a cuppa tea. Once you have given these cookies a go I guarantee you’ll be going back for more each Christmas!
Pfeffernüsse (German Spiced Cookies)
- 115 grams golden syrup
- 115 grams brown sugar I used dark brown sugar
- 115 grams salted butter
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla essence
- 290 grams plain (all purpose) flour
- 30 grams almond meal
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp ground white pepper option to remove or add more depending on your spice level
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp all spice
- 1 egg
- 2 cups icing sugar mixture
- 1 tsp orange rind rind from about half an orange
- 1 tbsp orange juice
- 2-3 tbsp boiling water more or less depending on how thick you would like the glaze on the cookies
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla essence
- Add the golden syrup, brown sugar, butter and vanilla into a small saucepan and melt on a low heat until sugar has dissolved. Set aside or in the fridge to cool for 10 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl sift the flour, baking powder, almond meal and spices.
- Once the sugar mixture has cooled, whisk in the egg, working quite quickly so not to cook the egg. Note: If your mixture is too hot you risk cooking the egg in the process and you may notice small lumps of white. This will be the egg white cooking. All is not lost, just sieve this and in most cases you can recover it.
- Pour this mixture over your flour mixture and mix well to combine. Place the dough in plastic wrap to cool in the fridge for 2 hours (or overnight if preferred). You can also chill it in the freezer if you are feeling time poor and impatient.
- Preheat the oven to 175°C and line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.
- Once your dough is chilled roll it out into approximately a 1" wide strand/log. Cut the strand into sections approximately ½" and roll each section into a ball. Spread the balls evenly onto the prepared baking trays. Be sure to leave room for the balls to spread as they will expand slightly in the oven. This recipe makes about 40-50 depending on how large you roll the cookies.
- Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your Pfeff's. They should start to golden up and may crack on top that is normal and what you want to see. Don't let them get too dark as you will lose the chewy/fluffy factor.
- Add all of the icing ingredients into a heat proof bowl. I would be sure to add the lesser amount of water first and work your way up to gauge how thick you would like your icing.
- There are two ways you can ice these cookies. You can dip your cookies into the icing to coat them. Or for a more all over coverage, set the cookies onto a cooling rack with baking paper underneath. Pour the icing over the top of the cookie using a tablespoon and allow the icing to run off and completely cover the sides of the cookie. The baking paper will catch any run off icing and you can scoop this up and reuse it if need be.
- Allow the cookies to set for 15-30 minutes or until the icing has hardened. Store these in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. The flavour and texture of these cookies actually gets better after a few days so be sure not to eat them all on the first day…or do, no judgement here.