Where holiday cookies are concerned, I usually don’t stray too much from my tried and true favorites; my experimentation with new recipes is for the rest of the year. However, there are some cookies I’ve heard mention of for years now, pfeffernusse, a German Pepper nut cookie, being one of them. In Germany pfeffernusse are made during the holiday season and its name translate to “pepper nuts.”

When I was growing up, the moms on my street used to have a holiday cookie exchange. I greatly enjoyed this since my mom never baked the more standard cookie norms (chocolate chip, sugar, peanut butter) and so she would return home with those type of cookies whereas my friends got the more exotic ones. Pfeffernusse was one the cookies she used to bake. I never tried it growing up for two reasons-one, its name to a small child didn’t sound the most endearing and two, she often made hers with nuts. However, while I don’t exactly find the German language comforting to the ears, I’m mature enough to not avoid eating a cookie because of it. And lastly, I discovered that the nuts part is completely optional so mine were made indeed, sans nuts.


recipe from Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students by Lois S. Webb

1/2 cup butter or margarine, at room temperature

1/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 cup molasses

1 egg

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, more if necessary

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon each ground cloves and ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, more or less as needed, for garnish

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

-In a large mixing bowl, use mixing spoon or electric mixer to mix butter or margarine and brown sugar until creamy. Add molasses and egg, and mix well. Mixing constantly, add 3 1/4 cups flour, baking soda, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper and cinnamon, a little at a time, until well blended.

-Using clean hands, shape dough into walnut-size balls, and place about 1 1/2 inches apart on greased or nonstick cookie sheet.

-Bake in oven for about 10 minutes or until set. Cool for about 3 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to rack.

-Put confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. While cookies are warm, roll each in sugar and place side by side on wax-paper-covered work surface to cool to room temperature. Continue making cookies in batches.

To serve cookies first allow them to mellow in an airtight container for about 2 days. Pfeffernusse keep well for weeks. 


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  • Reply
    Susie Dunn
    December 13, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    My maternal grandmother used to make pfeffernuse. I’m delighted to see this recipe. How many dozen does it yield?

  • Reply
    the red headed traveler
    December 14, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    The recipe says 4 dozen-I had less but I tend to make my cookies larger than the recommended size 🙂

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