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
- Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy.
- Add egg, beating well.
- Add other liquids.
- Sift dry ingredients with spices and flour.
- Add half the amount of flour, mixing well.
- Add remaining flour and knead thoroughly.
- Store dough in tightly covered container in the refrigerator overnight or longer. This helps dough to season and spices to blend.
- 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.
- Place pieces separately on greased baking sheet.
- 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.