A plate of pfeffernüsse
|Place of origin:|
|Flour, brown sugar, sugar, cloves, cinnamon|
|Recipes at Wikibooks:|
|Media at Wikimedia Commons:|
Pfeffernüsse are small, round biscuits (cookies) with ground nuts and spices, popular as a holiday treat in Germany, Denmark, and The Netherlands. It is also known as pepernoten in Dutch, pebernødder (plural), päpanät in Plautdietsch, pfeffernuesse or peppernuts in English, and pebernødder in Danish.
While the exact origin of the biscuit is still uncertain, the traditional Dutch belief links the pepernoten to the feast of Sinterklaas, celebrated on December 5 in The Netherlands and December 6 in Germany and Belgium. This is when children receive gifts from St. Nicholas, who is partially the inspiration for the Santa Claus tradition. In Germany, the pfeffernüsse is more closely associated with Christmas. The biscuit has been part of European yuletide celebrations since the 1850s.
Throughout the years, the popularity of the pfeffernüsse has caused many bakers to create their own recipes. Although traditional recipes include various nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, modern adaptations omit them altogether. Black pepper is sometimes also excluded, retaining only cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and cardamom as flavoring in newer recipes. Molasses and honey are also used to sweeten  the biscuits.
For the dough, most versions still use 19th century ingredients such as potash (potassium carbonate) and ammonium carbonate as leavening agents to get the sticky and dense consistency of the original mixture. It is then either kneaded by hand or through the use of an electric mixer.
Because of the combination of the spices, the original pfeffernüsse tend to have a slightly bitter aftertaste. Nowadays, bakers dust the biscuits in confectioner’s sugar to counteract this.
Kruidnoten and Russian Tea Cakes
The pfeffernüsse is commonly mistaken for the kruidnoten or spicy nuts in English. While they are both famous holiday biscuits, the kruidnoten is harder, has a lighter brown color, and has a different shape. Its ingredients are more similar to the ones used in making speculoos.
Russian tea cakes are also confused with the pfeffernüsse, especially when dusted in powdered sugar. In this case, the pfeffernüsse biscuits are bitterer than the Russian treats because the ingredients of the pfeffernüsse are less refined.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pfeffernüsse.|
- Caruso, Aimee. “Pfeffernusse: Spicy Holiday Cookies.” Retrieved 21 July 2013
- Broyles, Addie. “Relish Austin: Pfeffernüsse, a quirky Christmas cookie and so much more.” Retrieved 21 July 2013
- Pfeffernusse-Germany.” Retrieved 21 July 2013