Pfeffernüsse (German Iced Gingerbread Cookies)


If you enjoy gingerbread, then you’re going to love Pfeffernüsse (pronounced fef-fer-noos-a or for audio click here).

They contain a wonderful blend of warm spices, like ground cinnamon, cloves, ginger, all spice, coriander, cardamom, anise, mace and nutmeg. The Pfeffernüsse will feel firm when they’re first baked, but they will soften over the next day or so, becoming soft, dense and slightly chewy. There are many variations of the Pfeffernüsse, with some cookies containing finely chopped candied citrus or lemon zest. Others vary the spices or the coating, being liberally rolled in icing sugar or being dipped into a glaze.

Pfeffernüsse are spicy cookies that are part of the Christmas traditions in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark. This cookie has been part of the European yuletide celebrations since the 1850’s and the name translates to “pepper nuts” in English.  This refers to both the white pepper that is added to them, giving them their very unique flavour, and to their walnut-like shape.

The exact origin of this cookie is unknown. However, the Dutch believe that Pfeffernüsse (or pepernoten) are linked to the feast of Sinterklaas (which you can read more about this celebration here).

Another interesting fact I came across during my research, was that December 23rd is National Pfeffernüsse Day! But you don’t have to wait until December 23rd each year to enjoy these wonderful treats, as you can eat them at any time of the year.

For accurate cup measurements, I sift the potato starch and icing sugar before measuring, so that there are no lumps/clumps. All cup measurements are firmly packed.

Makes approximately 44

Gingerbread Spice Mix (Lebkuchengewürz)
1¼ teaspoons (6.25ml) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (5ml) ground cloves
¾ teaspoon (2.5ml) ground ginger
¼ teaspoon (1.25ml) ground all spice
¼ teaspoon (1.25ml) ground coriander
¼ teaspoon (1.25ml) ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon (1.25ml) ground anise powder
⅛ teaspoon 0.625ml) ground mace
⅛ teaspoon (0.625ml) ground nutmeg
128g (4.5 ounces or 1 cup) superfine white rice flour
56g (2.0 ounces or ½ cup) almond flour/meal
44g (1.6 ounces or ⅓ cup) tapioca starch
44g (1.6 ounces or ¼ cup) potato starch
39g (1.4 ounces or ⅓ cup) corn starch
2 teaspoons (10ml) gingerbread spice mix
¾ teaspoon (3.75ml) xanthan gum
½ teaspoon (2.5ml) baking soda
¼ teaspoon (1.25ml) white pepper
¼ teaspoon (1.25ml) salt
88g (3.1 ounces or ½ cup) dark muscovado sugar or dark brown sugar
77g (2.7 ounces or ⅓ cup) gluten and dairy free butter
80ml (⅓ cup) pure honey
3 tablespoons (45ml) chilled coconut cream, you only want the thickened cream from the top of the tin
1 large egg
304g (10.7 ounces or 2¾ cups) pure icing sugar, sifted (I use this brand)
Approximately 45ml-60ml (3-4 tablespoons) hot water, from the tap is fine

First you will need to make your Gingerbread Spice mix. To do this, add all the spices together in a bowl and mix thoroughly, until well combined. This will make more than you need, so just store the leftovers in an airtight container for future use.

Now sift all the dry ingredients together in to a bowl and then set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, honey and coconut cream, stirring frequently over a low heat, until the butter has melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool, for about 8-10 minutes.

Step 1

Next, using a spoon or sturdy spatula, stir in the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.

Step 2

Then add the egg and thoroughly stir it into the mixture. Your cookie dough will be thick and have a nice glossy sheen to it, and it’s also rather sticky. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and then refrigerate for 4 hours.

Step 3

Preheat the oven to 160C and line 2 trays with baking paper/parchment.

As the dough is very sticky, I highly recommend wearing disposable gloves here. Take 15g (0.5 ounces or approximately 2 slightly heaped teaspoons) of the dough and roll it into a slightly flattish ball, then place them onto the prepared trays about 3-4 cm apart.

Step 4

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until they are lovely and golden in colour. Then allow the cookies to cool on the trays for 3 minutes, before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Step 5

To make the glaze, combine the sifted icing sugar and enough hot water so that it has a fairly thick consistency. If the glaze starts to become too thick, just stir through few drops of water. Dip each cookie in the glaze, letting the excess drip back off into the bowl. Place the cookies on a wire rack, which has been placed over a tray to catch the drips from the glaze. Then allow the glaze to completely harden before eating.

Step 6

Store the cookies in an airtight container in a cool place.

Recipe by: The Gluten & Dairy Free Bakehouse

Note: all recipe oven temperatures shown are for a fan forced electric oven. Please refer to the below guide to help you adjust your oven accordingly. This recipe is shown in bold.

Oven Temperatures Chart
130C = 110C fan = 250F = Gas mark 1
150C = 130C fan = 300F = Gas mark 2
160C = 140C fan = 325F = Gas mark 3
180C = 160C fan = 350F = Gas mark 4
190C = 170C fan = 375F = Gas mark 5
200C = 180C fan = 400F = Gas mark 6
220C = 200C fan = 425F = Gas mark 7
230C = 210C fan = 450F = Gas mark 8

2 responses to “Pfeffernüsse (German Iced Gingerbread Cookies)

  1. Pingback: Christmas Scones | The Gluten & Dairy Free Bakehouse·

  2. Pingback: Spitzbuben Cookies (Linzer Cookies) | The Gluten & Dairy Free Bakehouse·

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