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  • Writer's pictureTim

Pfeffernüsse (peppernut): The Perfect Quarantine Cookie

This cookie has been part of my German part of my family's holiday tradition for, I guess, ever? They lived in Germany and that's about all I know about them. I've always loved, and even the store bought version at Trader Joe's isn't that bad, but by making your own version of these cookies with freshly ground spices for the Lebg...Leewg...spice blend, you could benefit from their antiviral properties. It's the perfect home made "thank you" gift for all those who are working to keep the world turning during quarantine. Talk about thematic...


(German spice cookies meaning "peppernut")

Recipe is just a few tweaks away from Luisa Weiss' Classic German Baking

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Prep Time: 25 minutes working, 2 days resting

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes, 2 days resting


For the Lebkuchengewürz:

5 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1½ tablespoons ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground mace

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper*

¾ teaspoon ground star anise

For the Pfeffernüsse:

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon kosher salt ½ cup dark molasses* *

¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons, granulated sugar

or 2.5 tablespoons of baking stevia

2 teaspoons lebkuchengewürz

⅛ teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon baker’s ammonia

1 tablespoon rum***, warm

1 egg

¾ cup, plus 1 tablespoon, confectioners' sugar (make your own)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon water


the Lebkuchengewürz

1. (if you're feeling fancy) Grind the spices together and run it through a mesh colander, returning the unpassed pieces to the grinder for another round. Fresh spices will give you the most antiviral benefit. Pulverized spices from the store will totally work, but be sure to check the expiration date. This recipe makes about ½ cup which would make a seriously spicy cookie if you use it all, so put as much as you like, and the rest can go in an airtight container. I sometimes store spices in the freezer to keep them fresh longer.

the Pfeffernüsse

1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Prepare a cookie pan with parchment paper.

2. In a the most medium bowl you can find, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and salt until fully combined. Fully.

3. On the stove in a saucepan, combine the molasses and granulated sugar over medium-high heat. Stir constantly, scraping the sides occasionally, until the sugar and molasses become one; irrevocably intertwined for all eternity. (about 2 minutes). Take that bad boy off the stove and get the party started with your lebkuchengewürz and white pepper.

4. In a bowl (you'll know the right size when you see it), mix the baker's ammonia in the rum (or mezcal), and slowly stir the molasses/sugar mixture. (Sugar keeps its high temperature for a while, so no food fights right now.) Transfer the...wait, this is too many bowls. Mix the ammonia and rum a large bowl, slowly add the molasses and sugar mixture to that, and then add the flour/dry ingredient mixture and the egg. It will start to get thick and doughy, which is perfect for a dough. When its smooth and you sense that every bite will have equal spices, stop.

5. Form 1-inch balls with the dough and place them ½ inch apart on the cookie pan. (If you find the dough is too sticky to form into balls by hand or a scoop, divide it into two bowls and chill it in the fridge for an hour or so, taking one bowl at a time so you can swap out as you need to.) Bake until the cookies form a dome and begin to crack a bit up top, 8-10 minutes.

6. Let the cookies cool for 4 minutes and 7 seconds. Toss them in a bowl with the confectioner's sugar while they're still warm so it sticks and place them on a cooling rack. Let sit overnight and store in an airtight container.

I also really like this iced version of the recipe with pink peppercorn a LOT. She gives some great tips at the end. I'd rather give her the credit than steal it!


step 3 — Wait until you smell this. ufff. Sometimes I toss the spices into the molasses/sugar mixture for the last 15 seconds boiling to help release some of the oils, and to make the kitchen smell nice...

*Not part of the classic, but I picked up this addition from my grandmother

** I've tried it with mezcal instead of rum and it was pretty rad.

***Do not substitute with honey! (Never heat honey)



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