Pfeffernüsse. Pebernødder. Päpanät. Pepernoten. Peppernuts. Call them what you want. I call them one of my favorite childhood Christmas cookies.
Peppernuts are a Dutch cookie, traditionally made early in December and given to children as a treat from Sinterlkaas. And, while one may assume from the name that pepper is one of the main ingredients in this cookie, that is actually not the case. The use of the word “pepper” refers to the spiciness of the cookie. Our recipe, like most authentic recipes, has no pepper in the cookie at all. However, nowadays there are a variety of recipes for peppernuts available, including some that do call for pepper. But don’t waste you time and energy on those recipes. Make this one! Our recipe produces the tiniest, cutest, most delicious, crunchy, sweet little cookies you’ve ever had!
My mother used to make peppernuts when I was a kid. She loves to tell me about how when I was tiny, around 2 years old, I spent an evening running (or rather “waddling”) one peppernut cookie at a time from the kitchen to my dad in the living room where he was reading a book. Each time I returned to the kitchen she says I would hold out my little hand and she’d put one of the tiny cookies in my fingers and then say, “Go take that to Daddy”. Adorable, isn’t it? I don’t remember a Christmas as a child without them.
Before this Christmas I had never attempted to make peppernuts. I knew full well how complicated they are to make and thought it would be best to go back home and make them with my mom, a peppernut professional, for my first time. The recipe we have is one that was handed down to my mom from my dad’s mom. As my mother and I made peppernuts this year she comically commented a handful of times on how time consuming they are to make. “Christmas time is the only time of year anyone would ever WANT to make these cookies – it’s the only time you’re in a good enough mood!” Peppernut making and baking is, indeed, a very long and labor intensive process, but I assure you, it’s time and energy well spent. The aroma that fills the kitchen as the itty bitty cookies bake is exactly what Christmas should smell like – cloves, cinnamon, pecans and the rich aroma of buttery sugary holiday goodness. And the end result – an addictive crunchy cookie that you’ll find hard to stop eating once you’ve started. EVERYONE you share these cookies with will be SO glad you took the time to make and bake these little labors of Christmas love.
These sweet little cookies are so delicious and addictive that my dad would often times, before heading to work, fill his coat pockets with peppernuts so that he could eat them throughout the day.
I filled a (smallish) bag up and munched on them the entire 1.25 hours home from my parents’ house and then begged my mom to bring more to McPherson so that Jeff and I could nibble on them during our even longer drive home from celebrating the holidays at my Grandmother’s house this year. They most certainly help the time fly by – that is a delicious fact.
- ½ c margarine
- 1 c white sugar
- 1 c brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ tsp soda dissolved in 1 ½ tsp hot water
- ½ tsp cloves
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp powdered anise seed
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- 3 ½ c flour
- 1 ½ c very finely chopped pecans
- Cream together margarine and sugars. Add egg and combine. Mix in soda that’s been dissolved in hot water. Add the cream of tartar and spices (cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and anise).
- Blend flour into spice mixture. Stir in pecans.
- Roll into thin logs and place on a cookie sheet. Use a piece of wax paper to keep the logs from touching each other. Chill for at least 3 hours.
- Slice into thin disks and bake on a cookie sheet at 325/350 for 10 minutes.