Pfeffernüsse I – Pepper Nut Cookie Recipe I

These are traditional German Christmas cookies, but are wonderful anytime. The nice thing about these is that they are so well-known, you can find them sold through many brands right in your local grocery store. Of course, homemade is always nice – especially when giving the gift of cookies to family and friends.

Difficulty: Moderate.
Preparation Time: *See recipe.
Portions: 3 – 4 dozen.


  • 1 2/3 c. blanched almonds or hazelnuts (about 1/2 pound)
  • 4 c. unbleached flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. finely ground black or white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. dry powdered mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. ground mace
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 2 1/2 sticks butter (10 ounces), softened
  • 1 1/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 c. honey
  • 1/3 c. warm water
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda


  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Toast the nuts in a shallow pan on the middle rack for about 10 minutes, until they are only lightly toasted. Cool the nuts.
  2. Using a food processor or blender on ‘Chop’, chop the nuts along with 1/4 cup of the flour until they are about the size of uncooked grains of rice.
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamed. Add the sugar and beat until thoroughly mixed. Next, beat in the honey. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of water and place the the rest into the bowl, beating to mix. It will look curdled. In a small cup stir the reserved 2 tablespoons water with the baking soda until the soda is dissolved; add to the bowl and mix.
  4. In another bowl, mix the sifted, dry ingredients. Add these into the butter bowl, blending in gradually. Finally, beat in the chopped nuts.
  5. Spread out three large pieces of plastic wrap or paper, wrap, and then flatten each package to about a 1-inch thickness. Place the packages in the freezer for about 1 hour (no longer) or in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
  6. To bake, adjust two racks to divide the oven in thirds and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with baking parchment or aluminum foil, shiny side up, and set aside.
  7. Flour a pastry cloth and a rolling pin. Unwrap a piece of the dough. Cut it in half. Work with one half, rewrapping the other half and placing it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Place the dough on the floured cloth. If it is very firm pound it a bit with the rolling pin. Turn the dough upside down occasionally while you work with it, and re-flour the pastry cloth and the rolling pin as necessary. Roll out the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Using a large, round cookie cutter (mine is 3 1/2 inches in diameter), start to cut the cookies on the outer edge (not in the middle) of the dough, and cut them touching each other.
  8. Place the cookies about an inch apart on the lined sheets. It might be necessary to use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies from the pastry cloth to the sheets. Use a smaller cutter to cut cookies from any of the scraps that are large enough. Press any other scraps together, re-wrap, and re-chill. Bake for about 18 minutes, reversing the sheets top to bottom and front to back once during baking.
  9. Bake until the cookies are golden. If the cookies on the lower rack start to darken too much around the edges, slide another cookie sheet under them – the double sheet will protect the bottoms. Cool briefly on the sheets until the cookies are firm enough to be moved. With a wide metal spatula transfer the cookies to racks to cool.
  10. Dust each cooled cookie in confectioners sugar. If desired, cookies can be redusted the next day before serving, or gifting. Store in an airtight container.

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