Christmas is a prime time for sweets, AKA fattening up for the Winter, so I figured it was time I started to get a move on. I’ll be dedicating a few posts this month in celebration of yuletide confections.
In this spirit, I’ve started my holiday baking off with some sweet little pfeffernuesse!
This recipe makes tiny, crisp, delicious cookies full of anise (which you either love or hate, there seems to be no in between! Such a polarizing flavor.). I also thought this was a bit of a perversion on typical pfeffernuesse, as it doesn’t contain any pepper, (pfeffernuesse literally means “pepper nuts” in German) but learned more from Wikipedia.
These cookies are in stark contrast to store bought pfeffernuesse, which are typically fairly large, 1.5-2″ in diameter, soft, and covered with powdered sugar. In my mind, those are the imposter pfeffernuesse. :P
In the spirit of making an old fashioned cookie, I located this recipe (OK, my mom looked it up for me – thanks, Ma!) in my Wisconsin hometown’s sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) community cookbook. There is no doubt that all manner of little old church ladies who know how to make bitchin’ cookies contributed to this collection.
In fact, there were SEVEN choices for pfeffernuesse, but I chose this recipe, from Ellie Lipske:
1 1/2 C. shortening (or lard)
2 1/2 C. dark brown sugar
1 C. dark corn syrup
1 C. molasses
2 1/2 tsp. anise extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
2 1/2 tsp. anise extract
7 C. flour
2 tsp. soda dissolved in 1 Tbsp. hot water
Firstly, gather your ingredients. Or at least the important ones.
Cream sugar & shortening (or lard), add eggs, then syrups. Add anise extract. Add spices & salt to flour and add to first ingredients. Add soda in water. I totally almost went for the lard, but in the end decided to keep it veg. friendly. Also, do not be tempted to use butter. I am generally a butter gal in all things baking, but you must use either shortening or lard to make these little guys crisp.
Mix ahead and chill in refrigerator several hours.
I mix the dough up the day before I bake.
For ease in rolling into rope like shape for cutting. Rolls about the size of a nickel will yield 500-600 cookies. OMG so many little cookies. My rolls tend to be slightly smaller than nickel-sized, and I like to cut my rolls apart with a paring knife.
This roll totally looks like a poop.
When cut, it looks like one o’ those big Tootsie Rolls. AKA, another name for poop.
Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. I baked for 10 minutes and I was just fine. I have a gas oven and it tends to run hot, though.
Word to the wise: If you are using a standing mixer to make this dough, please note that it will not all fit in a 5 quart KitchenAid Artisan mixer.
If I had bothered doing the math, I would’ve figured this out before starting, but I ended up transferring the dough to a larger bowl and finished it up with a hand mixer. You might consider halving this recipe if you want your 4-5 quart mixer to finish the job. Heck, you may want to halve it anyway…I just spent over 3 hours baking all of these accursed little mofos.
Also, they aren’t as dark in color or as flavorful as they have been in the past, but they’re still dang good. Pretty sure this is because I wanted to use up some baking supplies and used part Karo syrup with brown sugar, part dark Karo syrup (instead of all dark) and used mild instead of full flavored molasses.
Christmas crafting stats:
Christmas projects started: 5 (4 gifts and a quilt)
Christmas projects finished: 3 (gifts)
Number of days until Christmas Eve: 11