Pfeffernüsse (German Spice Cookies) Recipe

Pfeffernüsse (German Spice Cookies)
Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 1 hr 15 mins, plus 1 hr chilling time | Makes: About 8 dozen (1-1/2-inch) cookies

Pfeffernüsse are one of the oldest of German cookies and an excellent addition to any Christmas cookie plate. Dunk them in coffee, tea, mulled cider, or hot chocolate. Or don’t dunk, just eat.

Game plan: You can bake the cookies ahead of time and freeze them for up to 2 months. When ready to serve, bring them to room temperature and roll in the spiced sugar.

This recipe was featured as part of our Holiday Cookies photo gallery.

INGREDIENTS

For the spiced sugar:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

For the cookies:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons packed finely grated lemon zest (from about 2 medium lemons)
  • 2 teaspoons packed finely grated orange zest (from 1 medium orange)
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped candied lemon or orange peel (or a combination)
INSTRUCTIONS
For the spiced sugar:

  1. Sift all ingredients together into a large bowl; set aside.

For the cookies:

  1. Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, salt, allspice, and pepper into a large bowl; set aside.
  2. Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and process until finely ground, about 25 to 30 seconds. Add the almonds to the flour mixture and stir to combine; set aside.
  3. Place the butter, lemon zest, and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until fluffy and combined, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat until incorporated and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Add the egg and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds more. Add the honey and candied lemon or orange peel (or mixture thereof) and beat until just incorporated, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle with a rubber spatula.
  4. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three additions, mixing until just combined, about 1 1/2 minutes total. (Do not overmix.) Cover and refrigerate the dough until firm, at least 1 hour.
  5. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
  6. Roll the chilled dough into 24 (3/4-inch) balls and space them 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake the cookies for 8 minutes, then rotate the sheets from front to back and top to bottom. Continue baking until the cookies are very lightly browned around the edges, about 5 to 6 minutes more. (The tops will be soft, but they will firm up as the cookies stand.) Transfer the baking sheets to 2 wire racks and let the cookies sit until cool enough to handle but still warm, about 3 minutes.
  7. Drop the warm cookies into the spiced sugar, making sure to coat them all over, then shake off any excess sugar and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Repeat baking and sugarcoating with the remaining dough. Store the cookies in an airtight container, layered between pieces of waxed paper, for up to 3 weeks.