Germans have been immigrating to America since the colonial days, bringing beer, hamburgers, and all manner of delicious baked goods with them. German Americans represent the largest ancestry group in the U.S., with about 50 million individuals tracing their heritage back to Germany. Mike is about three-quarters German, and I’m one-quarter, thanks to my mom’s mom, Genevieve Feaga (pronounced Fig-ee) O’Donnell.
Many Christmas traditions in the U.S. originated in Germany, from Christmas trees to gingerbread houses. Pfeffernüssen seem to be the über-spicy cousins of gingerbread, packing in cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and even pepper in their dough. The recipe below is slightly adapted from the Martha Stewart Cookie Book recipe; I increased my spices a bit and just used regular nutmeg and pepper, rather than freshly grated or ground, as I only had the regular kind. Also, I spiced these very generously; while I wouldn’t describe the spice measurements below as “heaping,” you definitely don’t need to be stingy when measuring.
- 2 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar, for coating
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place powdered sugar in a brown paper bag and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and spices; set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, and molasses. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
Add egg and vanilla and mix until combined.
With the mixer on low, slowly add flour, mixing until just combined.
Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop out dough, roll into balls, and place about 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
Bake for 15-17 minutes, until tops crack and just begin to brown. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
Once cookies have cooled slightly, place 2-3 cookies in the brown paper bag at a time and gently shake to coat. Remove from bag and place on a wire rack to cool completely.