german

basler brunsli | chocolate almond spice cookies

Hi there friends! It’s officially the holiday season.
When did that happen?

basler brunsli | chocolate almond spice cookie | Brooklyn Homemaker

I feel like it was mid-summer when I went to bed last night, and I woke up in early December.
Yeesh.

So, to try to force myself into the December/holiday spirit, I decided some holiday cookies were in order.

basler brunsli | chocolate almond spice cookie | Brooklyn Homemaker

I have a healthy cookbook collection, including some old historic cookbooks, but usually when I’m looking for recipe inspiration I tend to leave the cookbooks on the shelves to collect dust and look to the world wide web instead.

When I was trying to find a new cookie recipe for the holidays this year, I started poking around online at first, but then I remembered a book my mom gave me for Christmas a couple years ago. I’m sure that by now you know this about me already, but when it comes to holiday baked goods, I friggin love an old school German recipe, especially one with a healthy dose of spice in it. The book is titled, appropriately enough, Classic German Baking. There’s even a “Christmas Favorites” section, so this was a no brainer.

basler brunsli | chocolate almond spice cookie | Brooklyn Homemaker

I can’t tell you how much I love this book. I could just flip through the pages and drool for hours. I did, in fact, just a few days ago!

The recipe I chose actually originates from Switzerland, but is very traditional and well loved in Germany. The main ingredients in these cookies are finely ground raw almonds and dark chocolate, with a few additions to bind the dough together and add a bit of flavor. The dough is surprisingly simple to bring together if you have a food processor, but without one, I think it’d be pretty difficult to grind the almonds & chocolate finely enough.

By the way, while raw almonds and dark chocolate aren’t exactly difficult to find, they can be pretty pricey depending on where you go. I just want to mention that Trader Joes is a really great source for affordable nuts and chocolate. Three cheers for the Pound Plus bar! You’re welcome.

basler brunsli | chocolate almond spice cookie | Brooklyn Homemaker

Rolling the dough out and cutting out the shapes is a little more challenging than making the dough, but no more difficult than any other rolled cutout cookies.

This is a pretty sticky dough though, so my biggest piece of advice here is to be generous with the sugar you’ll use to keep the dough from sticking to your work surface. If the dough is sticking to your counter, it’ll be almost impossible to pick up your cutouts and transfer them to your baking sheet without messing up their shape. I used plenty of sugar before rolling out the dough, and once it was rolled out to the thickness I wanted, I gently lifted the dough to make sure it wasn’t sticking anywhere before I started cutting out my shapes. If it does stick in places, try to gently release it from the counter and add more sugar before you start cutting out your shapes.

Sugar is used to prevent sticking rather than flour because, oddly enough for an old world European recipe, these cookies are actually gluten free! Woot woot.

basler brunsli | chocolate almond spice cookie | Brooklyn Homemaker

Once you’ve finished cutting out your shapes you can totally recombine the dough and re-roll it, but it will get sweeter every time since you are using sugar to keep it from sticking. I noticed that by the time I’d recombined and rerolled a third or fourth time, the cookies started to spread a little more in the oven from the extra sugar.

When it comes to the cookie cutters you’ll use, the author says that they’re traditionally cut into heart shapes, but if you want to do something else you should try to avoid any shapes with a lot of fine detail because the dough is too coarse and sticky to hold a detailed shape. The dough doesn’t really spread very much in the oven, but it’s just too hard to get this coarse sticky dough out of a cookie cutter with a lot of fine detail without messing it up. Even the snowflake cutter I used was a little fussy and I did find that some of the detail got slightly muddled.

basler brunsli | chocolate almond spice cookie | Brooklyn Homemaker

No matter what shape you decide on, these cookies are crazy delicious. They almost taste like a nutty, subtly spiced brownie. It has the perfect balance of deep chocolate, warm spice, and chewy ground almonds. Heaven.

Since this recipe was so unfamiliar to me with the lack of flour and the addition of ground chocolate rather than melted chocolate or cocoa powder, I was really worried that the chocolate would just melt and turn into a mess in the oven, but my cookies kept their shape really well, so never fear y’all!

They’re soft and tender and delightfully chocolatey. Russell said they taste like a candy bar.
Better yet, they keep for up to a month, so they can be made well in advance and stored, making your holiday season a little less stressful. Just don’t store them with other, crisper cookies, or the crisp cookies will absorb their moisture and get soft.

Happy baking, and happy holidays!

basler brunsli | chocolate almond spice cookie | Brooklyn Homemaker

Basler Brunsli

  • Servings: makes about 30 cookies
  • Print
adapted, just barely, from Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss

1 2/3 cups raw almonds
9 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate (60% to 72% cocoa)
1 1/2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons dark rum (or Kirsch if you have it)
Granulated sugar, for rolling

Add the almonds to the bowl of a food processor and grind until they’re very very fine, but be sure not to go too far and let them turn into almond butter. If they start to bind together, stop!
Transfer them to a separate bowl and break the chocolate up into the food processor. Pulse until finely ground, but don’t let it melt. If it’s warm in your kitchen you may want to refrigerate your chocolate first.
Add the almonds back in with the chocolate, along with the salt, spices, egg whites, and rum or Kirsch.
Pulse until the mixture comes together in a stiff, sticky dough. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

Preheat your oven to 300F (150C), and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Sprinkle your clean work surface with a generous layer of granulated sugar to prevent the dough from sticking. Place the dough on the sugared surface and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper to prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. Roll the dough out 1/3″ to 1/4″ thick, and check to see if the dough is stuck to the surface (*see note). Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter (**see note) and transfer the cutouts to the prepared baking sheets leaving 1/2″ space between them. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 18 minutes. The cookies should look dry to the touch, but soft. Repeat with remaining baking sheet. Cool cookies completely before trying to remove them from the parchment, or they’ll fall apart.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container or cookie tin, for up to a month.

Cooks notes:
*If the dough sticks to the work surface in a few spots, I found that it was easier to gently lift the dough and add more sugar underneath before cutting, rather than trying to lift stuck-on cutouts. Otherwise the cookies will lose their shape when you try to pick them up. If all of the dough is entirely stuck to your work surface, you might want to ball it back up and start over with more sugar on the surface next time.

**This dough is coarse & sticky, so avoid shapes with too much detail. Hearts are the traditional shape for these, but any simple shape will work.

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walnut schnecken bundt cake #bundtbakers

Another day, another bundt. That’s what I always say.

walnut schnecken bundt cake | German cinnamon roll cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Who am I kidding? I’ve never actually said that.

It does sometimes feel that way though, and this will be the 20th bundt cake I’ve baked and photographed and eaten since I started Brooklyn Homemaker.
Having joined a bundt baking blogging group has certainly kept my oven warm and my belly full!

walnut schnecken bundt cake | German cinnamon roll cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Over the months (or is it years already?), I’ve done my best to keep things interesting and avoid bundt monotony. The creative themes the bundt bakers come up with have always provided me with fun and interesting challenges month after month.

Every once in a while though, you really need to do something you’ve never done before, something totally different and unique, to give yourself an inspirational kick in the pants.

walnut schnecken bundt cake | German cinnamon roll cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

This month’s theme, chosen by Lauren of Sew you Think you Can Cook, is cinnamon. Warm, sweet, homey cinnamon! Who doesn’t love cinnamon, especially during the dark and dreary days of winter? Thanks Lauren!

I’ve been looking forward to baking this month’s bundt for a while now, but when it came to decide what to actually put in the oven, I was stumped! The problem was that every idea I came up with just didn’t feel very exciting to me. I was certain that they’d all be totally delicious, but I couldn’t think of anything I haven’t seen before. There’s something to be said for simplicity and tradition, and there’s nothing better than a buttermilk spice cake in my book, but I really wanted to do something original this month.

walnut schnecken bundt cake | German cinnamon roll cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

After much hemming and hawing I decided to consult one of the new (old) cookbooks Russell gave me for Christmas. With my fingers crossed I reached for the United Sates Regional Cook Book by Edith Berolzheimer and hoped a recipe from 1939 would catch my eye. The contents are broken up into 11 culinary regions of the US, ranging from New England to Creole cooking, and there’s even a special chapter on “Cosmopolitan American” cooking.

walnut schnecken bundt cake | German cinnamon roll cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

One thing that really struck me was that there are three separate chapters on culinary regions labeled “Dutch”. I’d heard of the Pennsylvania Dutch before, but the other two groups were unfamiliar to me. Another odd thing was that one of the regions, the Michigan Dutch, featured recipes from Holland, while the other two chapters featured German recipes.

Did you know that the name “Pennsylvania Dutch” actually has nothing to do with Holland or the Netherlands? In the U.S., these groups are called “Dutch” because their American neighbors misunderstood “Deutschland”, the German name for Germany, and mistakenly thought the people settling these regions were Dutch rather than German. The name stuck and they’ve been called the Pennsylvania Dutch ever since. I was aware that there was a large German population in Wisconsin too, but I had no idea that they were also called the “Wisconsin Dutch” in the same way as the group in Pennsylvania.

walnut schnecken bundt cake | German cinnamon roll cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

After flipping through the book I also noticed that each of the German “Dutch” section had their own separate recipes for “Schnecken”. If you’re not familiar, schnecken is basically a German version of a sticky bun or cinnamon roll. The word schnecken means “snail” in German, and the pastry’s name is inspired by the swirled pattern of a snail’s shell.

walnut schnecken bundt cake | German cinnamon roll cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

The strange thing to me was how different each recipe was from one another. The Pennsylvania Dutch version seemed pretty straight forward and similar to other cinnamon roll recipes, but the Wisconsin Dutch version was made with a much richer dough and was baked in a loaf pan rather than a traditional round or rectangular cake pan. The Wisconsin recipe also had nuts, brown sugar, and butter added to the bottom of the pan, so that when the schnecken is turned out you’d have a pull-apart loaf topped with it’s own drippy buttery sauce.

walnut schnecken bundt cake | German cinnamon roll cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve never seen cinnamon rolls baked this way but it seems rather similar to monkey bread in my mind. I figured that if this recipe could be baked in a loaf, why couldn’t it be baked in a bundt pan? A round loaf of pull-apart cinnamon rolls, dripping with their own buttery brown sugar sauce. What could be better than that?
The Wisconsin version didn’t actually call for cinnamon, but the Pennsylvania recipe did so I just went for it. I also swapped walnuts for the pecans and almonds called for in the original recipe. I’ve been on a bit of a walnut kick lately and I absolutely love their bitter earthiness when paired with rich sweet recipes like this one.

walnut schnecken bundt cake | German cinnamon roll cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

The resulting cake is super fun to eat as you just pull each roll off as you go, no knife required. It’s rich and buttery and dripping with with butter and brown sugar. The cinnamon adds a lovely homey warmth and the walnuts provide an earthy bitterness that compliments perfectly with the sweetness of the sauce and richness of the pastry. I brought the cake to work with me for a staff meeting and it was absolutely devoured! This cake should probably keep for a few days, but to be honest I wouldn’t know! It’s definitely best eaten warm.

In the name of full disclosure, this recipe is over 75 years old and there are a few things I would do a little differently if I had it to do over again. Other than the addition of cinnamon and substitution of walnuts, I wanted to follow the original recipe to a T. While it was absolutely delicious, I actually found it to be too rich and heavy. (Who knew that was even possible?)
This is a yeast raised recipe, but to my surprise it didn’t call for any water or even milk, only heavy cream, egg yolks, and lots of butter. Lots and lots of butter. The resulting dough is extremely rich, and when eaten cold it had a slight greasiness. I also think that it’d be better baked at a slightly lower temperature as it seemed slightly overcooked, with an almost fried feeling, on the outermost edges.

In the recipe below I’ve changed it from cream to milk and lowered the temperature from 375 to 350. This still will make an undoubtably rich and decadent cake and I’m fully confident that you won’t miss all that heavy cream. I did make notes if you want to make this in it’s original 1939 form, but I’m completely rewriting the recipe instructions to make them easier to understand.

walnut schnecken bundt cake | German cinnamon roll cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

Walnut Schnecken Bundt Cake

  • Servings: about 12 to 16
  • Print
adapted from The United States Regional Cook Book, 1939

Pastry:
1 packet of active dry yeast *see note
1 cup lukewarm milk **see note
1 cup butter, softened
5 egg yolks
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt

Filling:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon (optional, not called for originally)
1 cup walnuts, chopped (original recipe called for almonds)

Topping:
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup walnuts (original recipe called for pecans)
1 cup packed brown sugar

Whisk yeast into lukewarm (not hot) milk. In the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the softened butter and egg yolks until well combined. Mix in milk, salt, and flour. Switch to a dough hook and mix until the dough comes together and leaves the sides of the bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let rise for an hour to an hour and a half, or until doubled in size. You can also cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

On a lightly floured board, roll the dough out into a rectangle. Mine was about 18″x12″, but the original recipe just said to roll it “thin”.  Sprinkle evenly with sugar, chopped walnuts, and cinnamon. Roll up and slice into 12 to 16 even slices using a sharp serrated knife with a gentle sawing motion.

Pour melted butter into the bottom of a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan, reserving 2 tablespoons for later use. Tilt the pan to coat the sides in melted butter, but let most of it remain in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle nuts in an even layer, and top with brown sugar in another even layer. Arrange rolls, at a slight angle, evenly around the pan atop the nuts and sugar. Brush with remaining butter. Cover with a damp towel and let rise for an hour to an hour and a half, or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 350.

Bake until golden brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Turn out onto a serving plate or cake stand immediately. Do not leave in the pan or the sauce will stick. Serve warm.

*note: The original recipe called for cake yeast, but I couldn’t find it. Dry yeast worked out just fine.
**note: The original recipe called for heavy cream, but I found that it made the recipe too heavy and rich, with a greasy feeling. Milk will lighten it up a bit but the butter and egg yolks will ensure it’s still plenty rich.

walnut schnecken bundt cake | German cinnamon roll cake | Brooklyn Homemaker

And don’t forget to take a peek at what other talented bakers have baked this month:

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BundtBakers

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#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving Bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme or ingredient. You can see all of our lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest Board.

Updated links for all of our past events and more information about BundtBakers can be found on our homepage.

nusstaler

What is it about cookies that makes them the (un)official dessert of the holiday season?

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

With all the baking people are doing this time of year, and with all the desserts that fit the bill for the holidays, why the humble cookie? You got your cakes, your tarts, your pies, your puddings and custards, your candies, and all manner of other sweet treats that feel just as festive and celebratory.

Perhaps cookies take the cake because they’re so sharable. Because they’re such a social dessert. Even though they’re essentially single serving, homemade cookies are always best eaten with friends and family.

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Maybe it’s because they make such excellent gifts. Unlike cakes and pies, cookies keep well at room temperature for a long while, so they store, pack, and ship well. A batch of cookies that comes out of an oven in New York City can be enjoyed by a California grandmother just a few days later.

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Maybe it’s because they’re so customizable and widely varied. Spiced cookies, iced cookies, soft cookies, crunchy cookies, chewy cookies, thin cookies, thick cookies, sandwich cookies, stuffed cookies, cutout cookies, chocolate cookies, nutty cookies, fruity cookies, oaty cookies, buttery cookies, olive oil cookies, endless kinds of cookies!

Fill a tray to overflowing will all of your favorites, and it’s an instant party!

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

A cookie swap is a great way to make sure your holiday party has that obligatory cookie platter, without being stuck in the kitchen for days to roll and cut and decorate fifteen different recipes.

If you’re not familiar with the idea of a cookie swap, each person bakes up a huge batch of one recipe, and then everyone gets together and swaps everything. You show up with a boatload of own your recipe, but leave with half a dozen of several different cookies to share with your family. It’s like a baker’s dream party. A pre-holiday-party holiday party!

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

While I absolutely love the idea of a cookie swap, I’ve never actually been to one! Thankfully, most food bloggers love to bake (and eat) cookies just as much as I do, and a few years ago two of my favorite bloggers decided to get creative with the cookie swap concept.

the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015

Thanks to Love & Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen, we now have the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! Food bloggers from across the nation and across the globe get to interact and share cookies with each other from the comforts of home. We’re assigned three blogs to send our cookies to, and three blogs send cookies our way. It’s like secret santa by mail, but with homemade cookies!

It’s a great way to meet new bloggers and taste some seriously delicious cookies. It’s also a great cause, as donations are collected for participating, and all proceeds benefit Cookies for Kid’s Cander, a national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer.

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Coming up with a cookie recipe worthy of sharing with other food bloggers was a job I took extremely seriously.  We’ve already established that I’m a bit of an over achiever, so I found the infinite number of cookie recipes out there pretty daunting.

When it comes to the holidays, I usually like to stick to my German heritage, but I was running out of ideas. A few years back I made some traditional pfeffernusse, and last year I made a gingerbread linzer cookie for my first time participating in the cookie swap.

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Whenever I get kind of stumped I like to pour over Pinterest for inspiration. That’s where I found a recipe from Saveur for a traditional Bavarian Christmas cookie called nusstaler that caught my eye. I was intrigued. They looked beautiful and sounded delicious. Absolutely. You betcha. I couldn’t wait.

Then I read the reviews.

Almost everyone who attempted to make their recipe said there were problems with it. I won’t get into all the details but from what I was reading this recipe had obviously not been thoroughly tested before publishing and had some serious technical flaws. I liked the idea of this cookie so much though, that I took to google looking for other recipes with better reviews. The problem is that Nusstaler are largely unknown in the US and the only recipes I could find were in German. The real barrier wasn’t the language though, it was the measurements. Google translates websites for you at the click of a button, but converting metric recipes isn’t quite so easy. You can easily find out the equivalents in cups and teaspoons, but they don’t always work out the way you’d want. I realized that a direct translation and conversion would mean my recipe would included measurements like 1.865 cups of flour, and I was almost ready to give up and ditch the whole thing.

But it was too late. I was bewitched by the very idea of these nutty chocolatey little cookies. I’d spent so much time digging for recipes that I was determined to stick with it. So, I decided to just try to figure it out on my own. Mind you, this is a cookie I’ve never tasted, never even heard of before seeing them on pinterest, but I was just going to wing it.

The basic idea was simple enough. Nusstaler are hazelnut shortbread dipped or coated in chocolate. After a little research I learned that they’re supposed to be sort of coin shaped. Nuss means nut, and Taler is a German spelling of Thaler, an ancient silver coin that was used in Europe for centuries. Thaler is actually the root of the word Dollar! So, essentially, nusstaler translates to nut coins. Yum!

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

While I can’t promise that my version of the nusstaler is completely authentic or traditional, I can promise that they’re absolutely delicous.

I was expecting them to be crumbly and crunchy like other shortbreads I’ve had, but these were actually pretty tender and delicate. I think this comes from the high nut to flour ratio in the shortbread base. Much of what I read online said nusstaler is usually made with equal parts white flour and finely ground hazelnut flour, so that’s what I went with.

The flavor is buttery, earthy, nutty, delicate, and perfect; with a touch of crunch from the whole toasted hazelnut topping each cookie. They’re just barely sweet in such a way that the coating of rich bittersweet dark chocolate on the bottoms really adds something. I thought that they might end up tasting a bit like nutella, but the flavors of the chocolate and the hazelnuts acutally reach your tongue separately so you’re able to enjoy each flavor individually.

I hope you’ll give these Bavarian Christmas cookies a try. If you do, I’m sure that these funny little nut coins are sure to become a new holiday favorite!

nusstaler | chocolate dipped hazelnut shortbread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Nusstaler

  • Servings: makes about 2 dozen cookies
  • Print
1 cup whole hazelnuts, plus more for garnish
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 to 8 ounces good quality dark or semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F.
Arrange hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and rub hazelnuts, a small handful at a time, in a kitchen towel to remove the husk. It won’t all come off, and that’s okay.

Transfer 1 cup of hazelnuts to a blender or food processor and grind very finely into a coarse flour. Pulse in flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa, just to combine. Set aside.
Beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and beat just until combined. Gradually mix in flour mixture until well combined. Refrigerate until firm, about an hour.

Portion dough into 1 inch scoops, about 1 1/2 tablespoons each, and arrange on parchment lined baking sheets, spaced about 2″ apart. Press a hazelnut into the top of each. Bake at 350F until just beginning to brown around the bottom edge, about 10 to 13 minutes.

While cookies cool, roughly chop chocolate and melt over low heat in a double boiler.
Dip bottoms of cooled cookies into melted chocolate, carefully lifting out with a fork. Return to parchment lined baking sheets until chocolate is completely cooled and set.

Cookies should keep for about a week in an airtight container

Pfeffernusse

My family background is mostly German. Both sides of my family have German origins, but my paternal grandfather is the most recent to have moved to the US, having immigrated after WWII. I remember when I was younger he would spend hours on the phone speaking German to his brothers and sisters, most of whom all live spread throughout upstate New York. Christmas was always a time when they would send each other gifts that reminded them of home, and that time of year meant my grandparents house would be filled with all kinds of German treats.

pfeffernusse | Brooklyn Homemaker

Grandpa had an ever growing collection of beer steins that his cousins would send him from Germany. When my sisters and I turned 21 we started trying to find his favorite types of German liqueurs (he’s a fan of the sweet stuff) like Kirschwasser and Barenjager. My grandmother never really cared much for German food or cooking, so the German edibles around the house tended to be candies, cookies and cakes. One of his favorites was Stollen, a bready yeasted fruitcake filled with marzipan, candied fruit and nuts, and usually covered in powdered sugar or a thick white glaze.  I never really developed a taste for Stollen, but another one of his favorites, Pfeffernusse, I absolutely love.

pfeffernusse |Brooklyn Homemaker

Pfeffernusse, AKA Peppernuts, is a strongly flavored European spice cookie. It’s kind of similar to a strong gingerbread in flavor, but with a bit less ginger, and with finely ground black pepper instead. Pfeffernusse traditionally has some ground or finely chopped nuts in it, along with citrus zest, molasses and brandy. Some say this is an acquired taste, but I just think it’s not what people expect when they pick them up. Either way, this is an amazing underrated cookie that you will love if you give it a chance. They have a very subtle sweetness with a pleasant old-world holiday spice flavor. They also have a really fun name. Just say it out loud. Pfeffernusse. Pfeffernusse. Pfeffernusse!

pfeffernusse |Brooklyn Homemaker

There are a lot of pfeffernusse recipes out there, but this one is as close to traditional as I could find. A lot of recipes I found didn’t have enough spice, many of them skipped the nuts and citrus, and most omitted the brandy. This recipe, from the Joy of Cooking, is just what I was hoping for. Store bought pfeffernusse can sometimes be a bit dry, but this recipe produces a moist, chewy and cakey cookie. It’s got a very respectable amount of spice, the molasses and brandy flavors really come through with the citrus close behind, and the soft almonds give it a bit of texture.

pfeffernusse | Brooklyn Home

The list of ingredients in this recipe is substantial, with many different spices going into this cookie to give it it’s distinctive flavor. One spice you might not have in your cabinet is cardamom, but I implore you to try to find it. It has an exotic floral citrus flavor and is slightly reminiscent of cinnamon & ginger. It goes really well in spice cakes and similar desserts, especially desserts with apples. I love to add it to apple pie, and when I used to make apple butter I considered it my secret ingredient. As for the brandy in this recipe, it mostly bakes off in the oven, but imparts a great flavor and adds moisture, so I definitely wouldn’t skip it. If you don’t have brandy and don’t want to buy it to use a few tablespoons, you could sub it with another alcohol like rum or bourbon. Orange liqueur could be nice too but might make the cookies too sweet so you might want to reduce the sugar a tablespoon or two. I wouldn’t use Irish or Scotch whiskey because the flavor can be too strong or even smoky.

pfeffernusse | Brooklyn Homemaker

Most Pfeffernusse recipes I found called for them to be rolled warm through confectioners sugar. I’ve had them this way and they’re delicious, but I remember the cookies my grandfather eating when I was young having a stiff white shell of glaze, so that’s what I wanted. After a bit of searching I found what I was after. When you whip this glaze up it resembles marshmallow fluff, but thinner. You basically dip the whole cookie into it, let the excess drip off, and then dry the glaze in the oven while it’s cooling. Once the glaze has hardened you’re good to go. To dip these cookies I attempted to be dainty and polite, using a slotted spoon, but I quickly realized this was a job for clean hands. You’ll have it everywhere, and it’s sticky, but it’s so worth it. Once all your cookies are dipped you transfer them back to your baking sheet to dry. I used a small offset icing spatula, but a large butter knife should work well too.

pfeffernusse | Brooklyn Homemaker

If you’re looking for a new cookie recipe for the holidays, look no further. These cookies are said to be a favorite of Kris Kringle’s and they’re about to become one of yours. They might be a little unexpected, but most people with a grown up pallet will appreciate this European holiday treat. Anyone who enjoys spice cakes and gingerbread will surely fall in love with pfeffernusse. Traditionally they’re a small cookie, about an inch across when baked, but I made mine just slightly larger. I used a #60 cookie scoop, or about a tablespoon of dough for each cookie. I’d say a more traditional size would be about 2 teaspoons of dough, which would give you a few more finished cookies. They store and travel really well, so they’re perfect for taking home to family for Christmas, for sharing with friends at a cookie swap party, giving as gifts, or even mailing to the grandparents. They even improve with a few days age, so making ahead is a good idea, and they stay fresh for two weeks or more, so you might want to make extras!

pfeffernusse | Brooklyn Homemaker

Pfeffernusse

  • Servings: about 4 dozen 1.5 inch cookies
  • Print
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

2 cups plus 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks (whites reserved for glaze)
1/2 cup finely chopped sliced or slivered almonds
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
6 tablespoons molasses
6 tablespoons brandy (or rum or whiskey if you don’t have brandy)

Glaze:
3 egg whites
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices in a medium bowl. With an electric mixer beat butter and sugar until very fluffy. Add egg yolk and beat until well combined. Stir in almonds and citrus zests, and scrape bowl. In a small bowl mix the brandy and molasses. Alternate stirring in flour mixture and brandy mixture until combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, up to 2 days, to allow flavors to blend together.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop about a tablespoon of dough, I used a #60 scoop, and roll into a ball in your hands. Line up cookies about an inch away from each other on your parchment. Refrigerate for 10 minutes or more, then bake, 1 sheet at a time, for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned and no longer wet looking on top. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes before dipping in glaze.

To make your glaze, whip your egg whites to stiff peaks with an electric mixer. Slowly mix in confectioners sugar, and whip until completely combined with no lumps. With clean hands, dip your still warm cookies into the glaze and completely cover them. Let glaze drip back into the bowl and transfer cookies to a wire rack to allow any excess glaze to drip off. Once all your cookies are glazed transfer them back to your parchment lined pan and put them back in the still warm oven with the door open just a crack. Let the glaze dry in the oven for 5-10 minutes and transfer the pan to the counter. Let the glaze harden completely, for an hour or more, before serving or storing. If storing immediately, turn the cookies over and let the bottoms dry for an hour before stacking, and divide layers with parchment or wax paper to avoid sticking.