A recipe from Grandma’s House

Peppernuts, or “pfeffernüsse” in German, are a staple in my grandma’s house around the holidays. They are small, straightforward spice cookies that draw contrast to many of the ultra-sweet and indulgent desserts that are generally enjoyed at Christmastime. Every year, these dime sized cookies sit in a bowl on my grandma’s counter, tempting passersby to take a handful (or two, or three).

While peppernuts might seem plain, memories of making these tiny cookies hold a very special place in our family’s hearts. As a rite of passage, my grandma has made these cookies with each grandchild (and parent) many times at her house over the years – both one on one and in groups, carefully rolling the dough into long, thin logs – always intentional with the time she’s spending with each sous chef.

As I get older, what I appreciate most about this recipe are the memories I have of making it with the people I love. It is a simple tradition that feels like a stronghold in a season that can become overwhelming with excess.




  • ½ cup butter
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup sweet cream
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1/3 cup white syrup (Karo)
  • 1 tsp. oil of anise
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. cloves
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • ¼ tsp. allspice
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. soda
  • ½ tsp. cream of tartar
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 4 cups flour


  1. Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy.
  2. Add egg, beating well.
  3. Add other liquids.
  4. Sift dry ingredients with spices and flour.
    1. Add half the amount of flour, mixing well.
    2. Add remaining flour and knead thoroughly.
  5. Store dough in tightly covered container in the refrigerator overnight or longer. This helps dough to season and spices to blend.
  6. Roll dough into thin ropes and slice with sharp knife dipped in flour and cold water. Pieces should be about the size of a hazelnut.
  7. Place pieces separately on greased baking sheet.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown. Baking time depends on how brown you like peppernuts. Different degrees of browning change the flavor and texture.
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