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Thread: Pfefferneuse (peppernuts) anyone?

  1. #1
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    Pfefferneuse (peppernuts) anyone?

    My German grandmother made peppernuts every year for Christmas when I was growing up. Her recipe included anise oil and the cookies have a strong, licorice flavor which I really like. My Mennonite friend in college, however, used to bring peppernuts to school that were quite different. They were very small and had a light spicy flavor which I also liked. (They were REALLY two different cookies!) Does anyone else make peppernuts? Would you please share your recipes? TIA!
    kathyb


    Less rhetoric, more cowbell!

  2. #2
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    Kathy...I try to make these every year. Aren't they the same as peppernuts? The longer they sit the better they taste.

    * Exported from MasterCook *

    Pfeffernusse

    Recipe By :Martha Stewart Living, December 1993/January 1994
    Serving Size : 0 Preparation Time :0:00
    Categories : Cookies/Bars Ethnic
    Holiday

    Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
    -------- ------------ --------------------------------
    1 cup brown sugar
    8 tablespoons unsalted butter -- softened
    2 cups honey
    2 large eggs -- well beaten
    6 cups all-purpose flour
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon ground pepper -- freshly ground
    1 teaspoon ground cardamom
    1 teaspoon ground clove
    confectioners' sugar -- for coating

    Cream together sugar, butter, and honey; beat in eggs. Sift together flour, baking soda, and spices. add to sugar-butter mixture. Cover bowl; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking sheet. Roll dough into walnut-size balls. Place on baking sheet; flattent o 1/4 inch thick with a floured flat-bottomed glass. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from baking sheet; coat with confectioners' sugar. Let cool on wire racks.

  3. #3
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    I have an entire tiny cookbook which is nothing but recipes for Pfeffernusse.

    I love them, but I wish I knew how to get that thin-thin eggshell sweet coating on 'em that the bought ones have.

    Apparently, too, to get the real original texture, one needs to use bakers' ammonia for leavening -- but though I have found several recipes (for Pfeffernusse and for a few other very old traditional cookies) that say "the original of this used bakers' ammonia" the #$@$% things have always been adapted to "modernity" and baking soda! I have a little jar of the ammonia, but I don't know what the proportions are!

    I will have a peep at my Pfeffernusse cookbook t'night, if you like.

  4. #4
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    CR....have you tried making the thin coating with confectioner's sugar and water to a very liquid consistency. Place cookies on cookie wire rack (that has been placed in a jelly roll pan to catch the drippings) and spoon glaze over cookies. Let set till dry.

  5. #5
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    I'll check out some of my German cookbooks and see what I can find over the next couple days.
    "Is ice hockey hard? I don't know, you tell me. We need to have the strength and power of a football player, the stamina of a marathon runner and the concentration of a brain surgeon. But, we need to put all this together while moving at high speeds on a cold and slippery surface while 5 other guys use clubs to try and kill us. Oh, yeah, did I mention that this whole time we're standing on blades 1/8 of an inch thick. Is ice hockey hard? I don't know, you tell me. Next question."

  6. #6
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    I've used M.F.K.Fisher's recipe for years. They've become a welcome family tradition at our house, and at the houses of those lucky enough to be given some at Christmas (also a Christmas tradition).

    M.F.K. Fisher's Ginger Hottendots

    3-3/4 cups flour
    1-1/2 tsp baking soda
    2 Tbs ground ginger
    1/2 tsp gr. cinnamon
    1/4 tsp gr. cloves
    3/4 cup unsalted butter
    2 cups sugar
    2 large eggs, beaten
    1/2 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
    2 tsp cider or balsamic vinegar

    Sift dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugar. Stir in eggs, molasses and vinegar. Add dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Dough can be refrigerated at this point, if desired. Roll dough into 1/2-inch balls or into 1/2"-thick rolls and cut into 1/4" to 1/2" pieces and place 1" apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 until soft, about 6 or 7 minutes; don't overbake. They will crisp as they cool. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 15 dozen tiny cookies.

    Cheers! Andy

    PS: Kathy B, have a look for a little cookbook called "Peppernuts, plain and fancy, A Christmas Tradition From Grandmother's Oven" by Norma Jost Voth. It has several recipes for peppernuts made with baker's ammonia and some with anise (seed, oil or star of).

  7. #7
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    Peppernuts Plain and Fancy: A Christmas Tradition from Grandmother's Oven, by Norma Jost Voth. Published right here in Kitchener, Ontario.
    • Mother's Gumdrop Peppernuts (with spicy(?) gumdrops
    • Grandma Jost's Plain Peppernuts (lard, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pepper)
    • Christmas Peppernuts... "One of our family's favorite peppernuts -- crisp and crunchy, with the mellow flavor of brown sugar." Includes chopped nuts.
    • Black Walnut Peppernuts "An unusual recipe -- soft yet crisp, with the sweet, distinctive flavor of black walnuts." Also has sour cream in it. Vanilla. No spices at all.
    • Darlene Balzer's Date-nut Peppernuts "Here is an old-time delicacy, chewy and rich with dates and nuts."
    • Mrs. H.T. Unruh's Yule Peppernuts "A delicate peppernut with the hint of lemon, orange and a touch of mace." As it sez.
    • Crisp Peppernuts. Has some syrup in the recipe. Also oil of anise. Yum.
    • Plain Anise Peppernuts. Very plain... a lot of the moisture comes from simple water. Star anise (double yum!) and vanilla the only seasonings.
    • Fern Goering's Molasses Peppernuts. Lotsa different spices, oil of anise, molasses AND thick cream in these.
    • Helene Ewert's Spicy Brown Peppernuts. "Light, spicy, very crunchy." Various spices, also minced citron/candied peel AND chopped nuts.
    • Mariam Schmidt's Quick Peppernuts "I always dreaded the time it took to make my regular peppernuts. Then a few years ago a friend gave me this recipe. I find it much simpler," says Mrs. Herbert Schmidt. Not sure why, from the ingredients. Fairly plain little recipe.
    • Mrs. J.H. Epp's Old-Fashioned Peppernuts. A whole cupboard's worth of spices, AND butter, AND cream, AND honey, AND syrup, AND oil of anise...
    • Russian Peppernuts "Soft and mellow, filled with fruit and almonds, this peppernut adds its own special variation to your holiday baking." Ground nuts, chopped citron. Real pepper for a change, and that's all for spice in this one.
    • Mrs. J.H. Epp's Raisin Peppernuts "A fancy peppernut with raisins, coconut and peanuts." As it says. Methinks we are wandering far from traditional fields now...
    • Elsie Pankratz's White Peppernuts. With pepperMINT extract. Good grief.
    • Schmeckfest Prize Peppernuts "Catharina Janzen's...light, white peppernuts always won the prize." No peppermint here. Phew. Cardamom, a bunch of other spices and things.
    • Friedrichstadter Pfeffernusse "Originating in the old city of Friedrichstadt, Germany, more than two centuries ago." This one looks lovely, but would be a period piece to admire, not bake, as it calls for a quarter pound of bitter almonds. Which are delicious, and FAR too dangerous to be sold here. Substitute almond extract, pfui! I've had real bitter almond confections.
    • Anna Wiebe's Fresh Coconut Peppernut. A lot of spice, the fresh coconut, AND coconut milk. "Mother's recipe makes a very hard peppernut, but my family likes them best that way," says Erma Harms, Hillsboro, Kans.
    • Oh! Hey! Whoa! How come I didn't see this one before? Frieda Kaethler's Ammonia Peppernuts! Kewl!
    • Suse Toews' Syrup Peppernuts. Oo, another ammonia recipe! Also yogourt, "white syrup", cinnamon, cloves, star anise, lemon extract. All my favourites here...
    • Renate Lauf's Peppercakes. Whoa. This is a ... weird... one. Bitter almonds. Nutmeg cinnamon cardamom. Honey. Lemon rind. Kumquat (!) rind. Ground citron. Potash?! And last but not least, rosewater.
    • Almond Sugar Nuts. More than half a meringue, and again the bitter almonds, though only a couple for flavour. Four ingredients: egg whites, sugar, 1/2 tbsp bitter almonds, cake flour.
    • Couple of gigantic bulk recipes, making thousands, that apparently were made by the ton as church fundraisers by all the village ladies in the old days.
    • Something called Yeast Peppernuts. "Familiar in most Mennonite homes are the crisp, button-sized peppernuts. However, some families baked another kind with yeast... like tall rolls or buns. They were sweet, needed no jam or jelly, and were eaten with coffee, often dunked.... we here in the United States call these spicy buns 'Russian peppernuts'" A handful of different recipes for those, and syrups to soak them in, and toppings to top them with. They are baked like buns, all snugged together in a pan.

    Oh, and hi, hAndyman! I have always wanted to try MFK's recipe, just because it's called "Hottendots" and MFK is the best-loved "food" writer (not that she's really writing about food most of the time). (That and her Riz a l'Imperatrice, and, for some reason, War Cake. I do not think I would ever make or eat fried egg sandwiches though, not for any amount of literary nostalgia.) Richard Sax sez it's one of his favourite ginger cookie recipes too.

  8. #8
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    unfortunately all my recipes are in German handed down from woman to woman on my mother's side. So I have no idea what's in the recipe 'cause I can't read it. I'd be more then happy to get a translation for you though.

    Theresa

  9. #9
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    These are from my little copy of Oetker German Home Baking. Though they are translated as Iced Spice Nuts, I think the original was probably Pfeffernusse, judging by the ingredients and description... (I should check with my mother, who has the German version at home).

    ICED SPICE NUTS
    Pastry
    1-1/8 pound (500g) plain flour
    3 level tsp (9 g) Oetker Baking Powder Backin
    11-1/2 oz (325 g) sugar
    1/2 bottle (1/2 tsp I think, they are very small bottles) Oetker Baking Essence, Lemon flavour
    2 good pinches each of:
    ground ginger
    ground cardamom
    ground cloves
    ground allspice
    ground white pepper
    1 slightly heaped tsp ground cinnamon
    2 eggs
    6 Tbsp milk or water
    1-3/4 oz (50 g) ground blanched almonds
    1-3/4 oz (50 g) candied lemon peel, very finely minced

    Icing
    8 oz (225 g) icing sugar
    about 3 Tbsp hot water

    For the biscuit mixture, mix and sieve together the flour and baking powder onto a pastry board or cool slab. Make a well in the centre and pour in the sugar, the flavourings and spices, eggs and liqui. Draw some of the flour from the sides of the well to combine with these to form a thickish paste. Add the almonds and the candied peel and cover the whole with more of the flour.

    Starting from the middle, work all these ingredients quickly with the hands into a firm smooth paste. If it should stick add a little more flour.

    Roll out the pastry 1/2 inch thick and cut out small round shapes diameter 1 inch with a pastry cutter. Lay on a greased baking sheet.

    Oven: pre-heat for 5 minutes at very hot,
    bake at moderately hot.
    (the book is intended for gas cookers. Off to the preface... ah. "Hot" is 390-440F. "Moderately hot" is 340-390F. I expect preheating to 400F and reducing to 350F would accomplish the objective here.)

    Baking time: about 15 minutes.

    For the icing: sieve the icing sugar and blend with as much water as will give a good coating consistency. Coat the cooled spice nuts with this icing. If they are hard, leave them in the air for a few days, then store in an airtight tin.
    _________

    Next, Helen Witty's Pfeffernusse from The Good Stuff Cookbook. If Mrs. Witty says a recipe is good, or the best, I am very inclined to believe her! This cookbook rocks; I have made SO many gift-type foodie items from it!

    Also note her glazing method, which might even produce the glaze I'm seeking. Hm. May add these to MY list of projects this year.

    PFEFFERNUSSE - SPICY CHRISTMAS COOKIES
    "Let us not count the Yuletides during which these "peppernuts", redolent of many spices (including pepper), have been made with pleasure at our house and consumed with good appetite. One of their many charms is keepability--I've stored samples for months, in the spirit of culinary inquiry, and found them as delicious afterwards as before. So, do-aheaders, take note: Pfeffernusse, unlike many holiday treats, needn't (shouldn't) be made at the last minute, and they're great for shipping, surviving without a crumble. Further note: This is a two-day (part-time) operation, as the shaped cookies must dry overnight before they are baked.

    "The recipe is more or less the one published in Mrs. Witty's Home-Style Menu Cookbook. It has evolved a bit since then, as recipes will (I put in more pepper and anise and lemon than I used to) but the essential cookie is one that has been in the family for a long time."

    1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
    2-1/2 cups granulated sugar or half granulated and half (packed) light brown sugar
    5 large eggs
    1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
    1 Tbsp ground cardamom (freshly home-ground is better than store-bought)
    1 tsp ground cloves
    1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    1-1/2 tsp anise seed, lightly crushed, ground in a spice mill, or left whole
    1 tsp coarsely ground fresh pepper, black or white
    1-1/2 Tbsp, packed, finely grated or minced lemon zest (outer peel only, no white pith)
    4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 to 3/4 cup natural almonds, toasted and chopped, or half almonds and half skinned hazelnuts
    3-1/2 oz candied citron, chopped
    3-1/2 oz candied orange peel, chopped, or use half orange peel and half candied lemon peel

    Glaze
    2 Tbsp hot milk mixed with 1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar

    1. Cream the shortening in the large bowl of an electric mixere, then gradually beat in the sugar; beat until very fluffy and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, anise seed, pepper and lemon zest.

    2. Sift together the flour, salt and soda into a medium bowl. Stir in nuts, citron and candied peel. Stir dry ingredients into creamed mixture. Budle the dough onto a sheet of plastic, wrap it, and refrigerate until it is stiff, which will take an hour or two. (It may be left overnight if that's more convenient.)

    3. Prepare several baking sheets by spraying them with pan coating or greasing and dusting them with flour. If you don't have enough pans to accommodate all the cookies, lay out sheets of foil and pan-coat (or grease and flour) them.

    4. Shaping the cookies: This may be done with lightly floured hands or lightly moistened hands -- try both ways and see which works better for your dough. Shape the dough into 3/4" egg shapes (tall rather than round) and stand them on end on the prepared pans, leaving 1-1/2 inches between cookies. When your pans are full, place cookies on the prepared foil in the same fashion. Leave the cookies uncovered at room temperature overnight to let the outsides dry (this leads to the attractive crackled finish that develops in the oven).

    5. Preheat the oven to 350F, with a shelf in the upper third and another in the lower. While the oven heats, prepare the glaze and brush each cookie lightly with it.

    6. Bake the cookies in two pans at a time for about 12 to 15 minutes, exchanging shelf positions midway. They are done when the surface has crackled and browned lightly.

    7. Cool on wire racks, or loosen the cookies with a spatula and let them cool on the pans. Slip the foil sheets of cookies onto completely cooled pans and bake them when their turn comes; they may require an extra minute or two because of the insulation provided by the foil.

    8. Store the peppernuts at room temperature in an airtight canister. They really come into their own in terms of flavor after mellowing for a few days, but they are edible (although hard) when fresh from the oven.

    Makes 10 to 12 dozen, depending on size.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the recipes and the book recommendations! Compass Rose or Andy, what year was the "Peppernuts Plain and Fancy" published? I wonder if it is available here....I will definitely check on it.
    The recipes are certainly different from my Grandma's. I had no idea there were so many varieties! I am printing off the Hottentdots, the Pfefferneuse and the Spicy Christmas cookies. Next to decide how many and which ones to make!! Thanks again!
    kathyb


    Less rhetoric, more cowbell!

  11. #11
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    Peppernuts: plain and fancy. A Christmas Tradition from Grandmother's Oven
    Small (about 5x6"), paper-bound pamphlet/booklet by Norma Jost Voth, illustrated by Ellen Jane Price. Published by the Herald Press, simultaneously in Scottsdale, Pa and Kitchener Ontario, 1978. ISBN: 0-8361-1877-4

    I think this is one of those "museum" type cookbooks, specifically from Mennonite country.

    There are several used copies available, according to www.bookfinder.com

    Hm. Looks as though it is something of a collectors' item! $26? $39? Jeez!

    It's a nifty little volume, but not worth that, I'd say, unless you're a peppernut nut!

  12. #12
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    Mamasue and Handyman, could you describe the texture of your respective recipes? I'm seeking a recipe that results in a chewy/cakey texture.

    I suppose since I seem to think the Archway ones I've had are ideal, I should just buy a package and make a recipe that has similar ingredients. Then again, there could be lost of poly-sorbitol malti-dextrose type ingredients that I'd prefer not to know about, let alone replicate!

  13. #13
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    Bumping in hopes of a reply on texture!

  14. #14
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    Sorry for bein' kinda pokey!

    When I make the Hottendots I make them quite small (size of a nickel when cooked) and I like to bake them about 6 minutes in my oven. The texture I aim for is chewy/crisp. When cooked a minute longer they become quite crisp. Baking for less than 6 minutes in my oven results in a softer cookie. You'll have to try a small pan in your own oven to get the timing for the texture you want.
    Cheers! Andy

  15. #15
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    Update: I have just mixed up a half-batch of Helen Witty's Pfeffernusse. The dough lump is chilling as I type. Tomorrow I shall while away the weary hours rolling little eggs of cookie.

    I will report on the outcome (unless of course it is "dropped dough on floor; Pfeffernusse 2003 launch abandoned" )

  16. #16
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    Well, I didn't drop the dough on the floor (yet; there's still hope with the foil sheets of unbaked cookies) but I did manage to whack one of the glass shades out of the dining-room hanging lamp and chip it when I was putting the leaves in the table for Cookie Space...

    The dough (raw) tastes like just what I'm looking for; full of spicy flavour with a good hit of aniseed. I like the hint of lemon fruitiness, too. I rolled them this morning, so they'll be good to go bakey-bakey tonight!

  17. #17
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    Thanks for the updates CompassRose! Please keep us posted as your project progresses!

    I would like to try these, but I have not been able to find candied lemon peel. The stores all have the usual candied cherries, mixed candied fruit, and even candied citron, but not lemon or orange peel. Shouldn't they all be together? I will keep looking. (Or maybe I should just CALL around!)
    kathyb


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  18. #18
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    CompassRose, now I've even found a Pfefferneuse recipe in Joy of Cooking, so I'm eagerly awaiting the results of your launch to help me decide between the eight recipes I now have!

  19. #19
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    Talking

    Well, I baked them. They are good, though a teeny bit cosmetically-challenged. This is either an oven issue, or due to the fact that I used Spectrum Naturals unhydrogenated shortening rather than regular evil shortening, or, most likely, both.

    The ones that were on the top shelf of the oven spread -- a lot. The ones on the bottom didn't spread so much, but the sugar glaze on some of the edge ones torched a little bit, as did the overflow of glaze I slopped all over the foil.

    However: flavour -- excellent. The spice is a bit milder now that they're baked, but still very good. Despite their non-uniformity they are not bad to look at -- they crackled as promised, and the sugar glaze formed a nice crispy coating. They're also NOT hard right out of the oven; they're quite toothsome. On the whole, I would call these yummy, and A. liked them too, which is nice, as I got seventy-three of the little puppers out of my half-batch. (Mine, incidentally, preferred to be rolled with floured hands.)

  20. #20
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    Try #1

    After comparing about 10 different recipes (many thanks to those who posted on this thread), ended up making Pfefferneuse with the recipe below (with some modifications that I noted). The size and shape were exactly what I was looking for, but the texture was more cakey than I wanted. I am hoping to end up with something that's pretty chewy. But it was a good start!

    Anise Pillows/pfefferneuse
    Yield: 60 servings
    1 2/3 c All-purpose flour
    1 1/2 ts Baking powder
    1/2 ts Lemon peel; grrated
    1/2 ts Salt
    1/4 ts Ground cinnamon
    1/4 ts Ground nutmeg
    1/8 ts Ground cloves
    1/8 ts White pepper
    1/3 c Margarine; softened
    1/2 c Sugar
    1 Egg
    1/2 c Milk
    1/2 c Walnuts; finely chop
    1/2 ts Anise seed
    Confectioner's sugar

    In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, lemon peel, salt, spices and pepper; set aside. In large bowl, beat together margarine and sugar until creamy; beat in egg. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Stir in walnuts and anise seed. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls, 2" apart, on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 350'F. for 15-17 minutes. Cool slightly on wire racks.Roll in confectioners' sugar while still warm; cool completely. Makes 5 dozen cookies.

    notes: I tripled all the spices, used butter instead of margarine, and used almonds instead of walnuts. Like CR, I ended up rolling these in my hands rather than dropping by the teaspoon. I also went too large and ended up with only 36 cookies. It was a very easy recipe to follow.

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