Perhaps the perfect Christmas cookie for spice lovers, Pfeffernüsse are German spice cookies that are also favored in the Netherlands and Denmark. They're packed full of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, and even a bit of pepper, hence the name "pepper nuts." With a nice chewy texture and glossy sweet icing, these traditional German cookies will quickly become family favorites!
4 to 5tablespoonswater(less water will result in a thicker and whiter glaze)
In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, pepper, and spices. Set aside.
In a small saucepan combine the brown sugar, honey, butter, and cream and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
Stir the honey-butter mixture into the flour mixture until almost fully combined, then add the egg and continue to mix until smooth. The dough will be sticky, and have a glossy sheen. Scrape it out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap it tightly. Refrigerate the dough overnight or up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and set aside.
Remove the dough from the plastic wrap, cut it into 4 pieces, and roll each into a ¾-inch thick strand. Slice the dough into ¾-inch lengths, and roll each into a ball approximately ¾-inch in diameter. Work quickly while the dough is still chilled. Place the balls about 1 inch apart on parchment lined-sheet pans. Bake one pan while you are finishing rolling the balls for the second pan.
Bake cookies one pan at a time on the center rack of the oven for 15 minutes or until domed, and dry on top. Remove and let the cookies cool completely.
To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and water until smooth. Using less water will yield a thicker, whiter glaze while adding a bit more water will result in a slightly thinner but still opaque glaze which will be a bit easier to drip off the excess.
Dip each cookie, top side down, in the glaze, letting the excess drip off. Place them on a wire rack positioned over a piece of parchment paper or foil to catch the drips. Let the glaze dry until it is fully hardened.
Store the cookies in airtight container in a cool place. Cookies will keep for several weeks.
Many old school recipes for pfeffernüsse use baker's ammonia as leavening as opposed to more common baking soda or baking powder. It can be harder to find, and likely not very useful if you're not baking other recipes that require it. Many recipes for pfeffernüsse nowadays will instead include baking powder or baking soda. The resulting texture will be slightly different than if one were to use baker's ammonia.
Also, like other European gingerbread cookie recipes, this is one that traditionally is baked with little to no fat, and requires a few days at least to soften to the right texture before it can be eaten. Many recipes have circumvented these issues by adding butter (as this recipe does), so they can be enjoyed immediately.