Monday, December 12, 2011


I love the name of these spicy little cookies.  Translated from the German, it means "pepper nuts." There is in fact PEPPER in the cookies, but there are many other spices as well, and the flavor is akin to gingerbread.

The texture is chewy when they are freshly made.  But tradition holds that the flavor intensifies if you bake them two weeks before Christmas and store them in an airtight tin.  That's where the second part of the name comes from, for they also become denser.  And hard as rocks. Excuse me: hard as nuts. They're only as hard as NUTS.

Trust me they are well worth the wait.  They aren't all THAT hard, they're full of good things, (honey, molasses, candied orange peel,) and they are easy to make.

These beautiful golden nuggets are chopped candied orange peel, from organic oranges, found at my local food co-op!  The perfect find for this baking project. 
You will be doing a great favor to yourself and the planet to seek out a local honey producer.

Plan on 15 minutes to mix the dough, 2 hours to let it chill, and another 20 minutes to get them rolled and baked. (Chill overnight if that's more convenient for you.)

Here's How:
In a large bowl, whisk two eggs
add and beat in:
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey

In a second bowl combine these dry ingredients:
4 cups unbleached flour
1 cup organic sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix in 1/2 cup very finely chopped candied orange peel or other dried fruit. Be sure your spices are well incorporated into the flour mix before adding the orange peel, because the orange peel is very sticky.  Carefully stir the peel into the dry mix, making sure the pieces don't clump together, but are evenly distributed throughout the mix.

Now combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix well.  Mixture will appear a bit dry and crumbly, but don't worry, this will change when you form the cookies with your warm hands. For now, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Then preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. (165degrees C.)

Roll dough into little balls slightly bigger than acorns and place on an ungreased cookie sheet, spacing about an inch apart. 

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, then use a spatula to move cookies to cool on a cooling rack.

When cookies are cool, use tongs or chopsticks to roll them in confectioner's sugar. 
Pack into a decorative tin, using wax paper as a barrier so the cookies don't actually touch the tin.

Cookies are also just fine without the sugar, if that's more to your liking.  And they are great to eat right away, if they don't all happen to fit into that tin.

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