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Pfeffernuesse

Peggy Regehr, Winnipeg, MB, e-mail message to Michael Miller.


There was recently a recipe for Pfeffernuesse. It reminded me of my childhood and the Pfeffernuesse we used to have.

Among Mennonites there are several varieties of these cookies. First of all there are small, crisp cookes that are almost like jaw breakers yet almost melt in the mouth. Then there are also the soft cookies, usually cut from a long rope and placed close together on the pan so that when they bake they touch each other and sometimes need to be broken apart. I have also seen a yeast dough type cookie that is also placed close together on a pan so that they touch and need to be broken apart.

In addition to the two above variations there are also variations in ingredients. Pfeffernuesse evolved and took differing directions depending on where our people lived and what ingredients were available.

First of all they used either honey or syrup as the "sugar" base. Then there are several distinct types:
- Some use only spices for flavorings in the cookies.
- Some use only anise - either oil of anise or powdered anise.
- Others used both spices and the anise.
- Some actually include black pepper and others do not.
- More recently there has been the addition of other ingredients such as lemon juice or rind, nuts, and/or glace fruit or raisins.

Because I spent much of my childhood away from our home community - in a boarding school in India - we never developed the same tradition around pfeffernuesse as some other families did. But here is one I found recently and have been making for many years. It is one I enjoy immensely.

Pfeffernuesse

1 large egg
3/4 c. sugar (I use less)
1/4 c. honey
2 Tb. ground blanched almonds (optional)
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp each cinnamon and allspice
1/4 tsp each ground cloves and cardamom
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Optional: Rum, icing sugar (Rum would not have been used by our ancestors and I also do not use it.)

Method:

- In a large bowl, beat egg, sugar and honey until light and fluffy. Stir in almonds and lemon rind.
- Sift together flour, baking powder, spices and pepper.
- Work into sugar mixture until a smooth, rather firm dought forms.
- Chill dough at least 2 hours and then form into long rolls, 1 inch in diameter.
- Cut into 1/2 inch slices and roll each slice into a small ball (rolling is optional).
- Place on greased baking sheet and allow to dry for 2 to 3 hours.
- Bake in 300 deg.F oven until cookies are light brown in color and firm to touch, about 15 minutes.
- Let cool slightly and sprinkle with rum and icing sugar if desired.
- Store in an airtight container.
- Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

Enjoy.

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