Pfeffernusse (German Spice Cookies)

Of all my Christmas memories, the dearest to me are all in the kitchen.  Ever since I was a very little girl, my mom and I have spent the best parts of every Christmas cooking and baking together.  When I was small enough to sit up on the counter to help, she taught me to form balls of dough for molasses crinkles between my tiny little hands, then roll them in sugar and place them baking sheets.  She’d help me shake cookies like these pfeffernusse in bags of powdered sugar and arrange them on a special plate to take to church for the potluck after my Sunday school Christmas pageant.

Over time, my sisters have joined in (our poor brother stays faaaaar away until it’s time to taste test) and our cooking and baking endeavors have become more complicated.  My sisters and I couldn’t be more different and we haven’t always gotten along.  I know these holiday kitchen sessions have been such an integral part of bringing us back together and I am beyond thankful for that.  In the past couple of years, we’ve brought my sweet little niece into the fold.  I hope one day I’ll be able to make similar memories with a little one of my own.

This recipe is not the one my mom and I would’ve used all those years ago, but I think it’s my new favorite.  These cookies are fully and boldly spiced, but not in an overly aggressive way.  They stay soft in a container for several days and the flavor only gets better.  Plus, I get to shake them in a bag of powdered sugar just like I did as a little girl sitting up on the kitchen counter all those years ago.

german spice cookie

Soft, sweet, and spicy, there’s nothing not to love about these nostalgic Christmas cookies.

from What’s Gaby Cooking?

1/2 c. dark molasses
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. fresh, finely-cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 large eggs
2 tsp. anise extract
1 c. confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1.  In a large, heavy bottomed pot over low heat, combine the molasses, honey, and butter.  Stir together until the butter is just melted and the ingredients come together, making sure the mixture does not boil.

2.  Remove the pot from the heat and pour mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.  If you will not be using a stand mixer, pour into a large metal or tempered glass bowl.

3.  While the molasses mixture cools, sift together the flour, both sugars, cinnamon, baking soda, cardamom, allspice, cloves, ginger, black pepper, and salt in a separate bowl.

4.  When the molasses mixture is nearly cooled to room temperature, stir in the eggs and anise extract.

5.  In three additions, add the dry ingredients to the molasses mixture.  Mix on low until everything is combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl before each addition.  The dough will be quite stiff.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator at least two hours, up to overnight.

6.  Preheat the oven to 325° F and prepare two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.

7.  Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out portions of dough.  Roll each scoop between your hands to form a ball.  Place each ball on a baking sheet and place two inches apart.  Bake 12-14 minutes, then remove each baking sheet and set on a wire cooling rack for five minutes.  Once the cookies begin to firm up, remove from the baking pan and place directly on the rack.

8.  When the cookies are completely cooled, roll each in powdered sugar or place in a large plastic bag, a few at a time, and shake to coat.  (These are great jobs for little helpers.)

Yield: approximately four dozen cookies

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1 Comment

  1. Lexie Rochelle
    December 8, 2016 / 4:03 pm

    Awe, honey, your post made me cry, but tears of joy and great memories. We have had many years of great memories through baking and cooking together. But, none of them are as sweet (no pun intended) as the ones shared with your siblings and you when you were little. As little girls, baking was just fun, no shopping and cleaning involved for you, and something we could do together. Our joy of baking together not only provided wonderful memories, it has also helped to teach organizational skills, time management, and the use of fractions. I pray you, too, will get to share these experiences with a little one of your own some day, but until then, I am sure your sweet little niece would love to spend time with Aunt KeKe. I am going to try your recipe to take to the work Christmas party Friday night. I know they will be fabulous. I love you, Merry Christmas, my Special K.

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