Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pfeffernüsse (Peppery Ginger Bread Cookies)

...spicy christmas
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Very traditional, very spicy christmas cookies. These gingerbread cookies have a wonderful flavour of pepper, ginger, and anise. They should be soft inside and crunchy outside. A lemon glaze complements these treats.

Pepper was a very expensive spice during the time these cookies were invented. And for christmas one have used this special ingredient. It was a sign of wealth being and it was a sign for a special feast. So Pfeffernüsse contain much freshly ground pepper. Don’t reduce the amount, because the peppery taste make the difference. Pfeffernüsse are not difficult to make, yet so tasty, and are a typical German advent and christmas cookie.

(for about 48 cookies)

80g butter
100g dark molasses (Zuckerrübensirup)
100g sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly grounded anise seed
A little less than 1/2 teaspoon freshly grounded black pepper
250g all purpose flour
1 knife point baking soda

... for the glaze:
80g powder sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice (maybe a bit less or more)

Mix flour and baking soda and set aside.

Bring butter, dark molasses, sugar, and spices in a pot to a single boil and remove from heat. Add flour at once and stir in quickly. Let dough cool down. Then wrap it into cling film and put into the fridge. Let it rest overnight.

Next day: The dough should be very firm. Halve it with a knife. Set one half aside for the moment and put it back in the fridge. Divide the halved dough into 8 pieces. Each of the 8 pieces divide into 3 little pieces (they should have almost the size of walnuts). Knead the little pieces of dough, so that they get a little waxier. Then roll them between your hands to form a little ball. Place them on a plate and put in the fridge. Do the same with the second half of the dough.

Note: the dough can get really hard. When you take it out of the fridge and it is too hard to form into balls, let it stay for a while at room temperature. The balls do not have to have the perfect form.

Let the dough balls rest in the fridge for one hour. Meanwhile preheat oven 180°C. Line out two baking trays with baking paper. Take the dough balls out of the fridge and put them on the baking tray. Bake the cookies in the lower third of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on how hard you like them). Cookies will flatten a bit and should be golden. They are still soft when you take them out of the oven. Let them cool completely on a cooling rack.

Glazing: Mix powdered sugar with as little lime juice as possible to form a glaze. The glaze should be pasty, so use as much lime juice you need to get this consistency. Store the Pfeffernüsse between layers of parchment paper in an airtight container. You can store them in a dry and not too warm place for about 4 weeks.

Note: if you bake the cookies for about 10 to 12 minutes they are more soft. As longer as you bake them as harder they will get. Do not bake them longer than 15 minutes. I like them harder and love to dip them into hot coffee or hot chocolate.

Pfeffernuesse (peppery gingerbread cookies)
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

About the photos
Photos are worthwhile a thousand words. Sometimes photos show more than you can describe in the directions. The glaze for example is described as pasty. In the photos you can see that it has a certain dimension. It is very thick and doesn't flow as you may know it from other glazes. And take a look at the shape. They are really rounded, indicating that I have baked them a little longer. I like my Pfeffernüsse very crunchy. If you bake them as described in the directions they may be more flat after cooling down.

A year before, I have used a similar setting as in the first photo, but used a plain black background (see photo below). And although I like this shot, I thought the angle was to leveled and the background is missing some structure. The plain black is killing a bit dimension and also atmosphere. It seems a bit artificial.

A year later I used again a balck background and used an all black background. I replaced the white plate against a black one. But instead a plain black backround this one has more structure.

In the 2nd photo I was going for a more "conventional" setting using brown and green as the main colors.

© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009


Manggy said...

Looks beautiful, though I prefer my cookies soft :) I like the first picture the best!

Thorsten said...

Thanks Manggy. If you like your cookies soft, just bake them a little shorter.

Snooky doodle said...

these look delicious!

Thorsten said...

Thanks Snooky Doodle

MPG said...

Thorsten, I made these and they are the best tasting Pfeffernüsse ever! My husband's family loved them too :) so I have the German seal of approval. Mine got hard, so next time I'll be careful. I am going to mail you some more questions about them. Thanks for sharing such a yummy recipe!

Thorsten said...

Thank you very much Mohini. And also for your great questions on the recipe. I have added some notes to make things clearer.