This is a slightly non-traditional take on a traditional German Christmas cookie. If you want them ready to eat by Christmas, make them now. Like many German baked goods, they are meant to be aged, in this case 3 or 4 weeks, before being eaten.
Pfefernüße means pepper-nut, and while there isn’t necessarily pepper in them (though there can be) there are a lot of spices, along with some candied peel and nuts. Personally, I like to substitute pumpkin seeds for the nuts, and, although they don’t traditionally contain chocolate, my favourite version does.
I originally got this recipe from Gail’s Recipe Swap on the Epicurious website way back in 1995. Fun trivia fact for the day: I was the very first person to reply to the very first post on Gail’s Recipe Swap.
I have no idea who the original poster actually is, but he seriously knew his cookies. These are fantastic. Here is my version of the original recipe:
- 1 cup honey
- 1/3 cup golden syrup
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 4 cups flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. white pepper
- 1/2 tsp. mace
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup candied lemon peel
- 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 lbs. bittersweet chocolate
- Combine honey, golden syrup, brown sugar and butter in a saucepan . Heat, stirring occasionally, until butter melts and the mixture begins to bubble gently.
- Remove from heat and let sit 15 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
- Stir the eggs into the cooled honey mixture, and pour it, all at once, into the flour mixture.
- Stir to form a dough.
- Stir in the peel, zest, and the pumpkin seeds.
- Wrap the dough in plastic (I usually divide it into 4 pieces for easier handling) and refrigerate at least overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Pinch off half a Tablespoon of dough at a time and roll it into a ball.
- Place balls on parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until set in the center.
- Cool completely.
- Temper the chocolate (Google it, and look for the seeding method if you don’t know how to do this).
- Dip the cookies into the tempered chocolate and set on a sheet of foil to cool and harden.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for at least 3 weeks before eating. If you have that kind of willpower.