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Wednesday Baking | How to Make Pfeffernusse

Every Wednesday (ok, most Wednesdays!) I share a baking recipe. And lots of pictures of said baking recipe. I don’t call this Wednesday Baking because I bake solely on Wednesdays…no, my oven gets a workout much more frequently than once a week! Wednesday just happens to be the day I share baking recipes with you. All the past baking posts are archived in the Wednesday Baking category.

I showed these little cookies to you all on my 365 page and today, I’m sharing the recipe.

My German grandmother, who’s been gone since Lisey was a baby, used to make these at Christmastime. I first remember eating them on an extended family skiing vacation, and I was hooked.

These little cookies, which are Peppernuts in English, are flavored with multiple spices, but the strongest flavor comes from the anise extract. Anise sort of tastes like black jelly beans to me, so if you loathe those, you probably won’t be in love with this cookie. My siblings all hate Pfeffernusse, but Mr. FG and my kids adore them.

Here’s the small army of spices and extracts you’ll need.

The dough-making process is very simple, though.

First, cream butter and sugar together. My grandma used lard, but since I don’t usually have lard around, butter it is.

Add milk (my grandma used half and half, I think, but I’ve used skim milk and everything in between with similar results), corn syrup, vanilla extract, almond extract, and anise extract.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour and spices together.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and mix it up until the two are thoroughly combined. Place the dough in an air-tight container and refrigerate overnight (or two days, if you’re like me and can’t get around to baking the cookies on the appropriate day!).

On the day you want to bake the cookies, heat your oven to 375 ° F. Then take a portion of the dough and roll it into a pencil-like strip with the diameter of a nickel, like so.

You’ll need to make lots of dough logs.

I find these to be too soft to slice even if they’re refrigerated, so I like to put my logs into the freezer for about 15 minutes before I try to slice them.

If you’ve got kids who want to help in the kitchen, this is a good time to bring them in. Joshua and Lisey, who can be trusted with a knife, cut the logs into slices, and Sonia and Zoe helped put the slices onto the cookie sheets.

These don’t expand a lot while they’re baking, so you can put them pretty close together on the cookie sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned.

If you remove the cookies right away, the bottoms of them tend to get kind of torn up, like the ones on the right. But if you let them cool a bit, the bottoms will be much neater.

Of course, if you line your sheet with parchment paper, removing the cookies is a total piece of cake.

Once the pfeffernusse have cooled completely, you’ll want to store them in an airtight container so that they retain their crunchy quality. I love this glass and stainless steel container I found at Goodwill…the only plastic is a flexible ring that sits on the outer neck of the glass part, so no plastic ever even touches the food.


homemade German pfeffernusse

Oh, and I should add that I usually make a half batch of these because if I make a whole batch, I grow very weary of the rolling and cutting process. One time when I was a teenager I made a double batch, and that just about did me in. Never again!

Grandma’s Pfeffernusse

Printable Pfeffernusse Recipe

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup lard or butter
1 1/2 cups white corn syrup
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons anise extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
7-7.5 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cardamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Cream butter and sugar; beat in corn syrup, milk, and anise, vanilla, and almond extracts.

In a separate bowl, combine flour and the remaining dry ingredients.

Add dry ingredients to butter mixture, and mix until thoroughly combined. Place dough in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.

Heat oven to 375. Roll portions of dough into pencil-like logs with the diameter of a nickel. Cut into 3/8 inch
slices and place on a baking sheet (you can line the baking sheet with parchment paper if you like). Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Let cool thoroughly, and store in an airtight container.

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Wednesday 16th of December 2015

Oh my gosh, thank you SO much for this recipe!! MANY years ago, probably close to 20 years, i found a recipe for these cookies in a Taste of Home magazine. I made them only once, and they were so good!! Before I could make them again for the next Christmas, I had lost the recipe, and was never able to remember the name of it. I just came across the name while searching cookie recipes, but they didn't look the same, they were larger, and covered in powdered sugar. I searched Google images, and found your photo with the tiny cookies I remember. I can't wait to make a batch!! I can still remember the yummy flavor of them, and how tedious it was to roll the little logs and cut them....but it was SO worth it!!


Friday 11th of December 2015

Can this be made in a pan & then sliced up in small pieces to serve?


Friday 11th of December 2015

I'm not sure. My gut feeling is that baking it in a large piece would make it harder to get it to cook to a nice crispy, hard texture.


Tuesday 8th of December 2015

They keep for ages. My family is mixed, Scandinavian and German, and both sides make pepper nuts. In Scandinavia, there is no anis or vanilla, but they are more peppery, meaning there is literally more pepper and cardamon in them. Also, there can be ginger, which I love.

cheryl benson

Saturday 26th of September 2015

can the dough or the cookies be frozen to help with the Christmas cooking frenzy


Saturday 26th of September 2015

I believe so. But the other bit of good news is that pfeffernusse stay fresh for a long time, since they're a hard cookie. So you can make them a week or two ahead of time and they'll still be great.


Friday 17th of October 2014

I pinned a Peppernut recipe to Pinterest which has walnuts and citron listed in the ingredients, if you're interested.

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