Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Grandma Knudsen's Pfeffernusse

Item No. 5 on my Bucket List was to make (Great) Grandma Knudsen's Pfeffernüsse.  Side note: Don't worry, I have other things on the list that are much more adventurous than baking a family recipe.

These babies were on the list because they are delicious to eat and intimidating to think about making.  I wasn't sure I would be able to replicate the recipe just like Grandma.  And I was right.  They don't taste exactly like hers, but they were delicious for a first try.

What I did wrong was buy whole anise seeds, instead of ground anise.  I then had to mortar and pestle the seeds.  Anxious to get to the tedious task of cutting these little cookie-buscuits into fingernail- sized morsels, I rushed the grinding of the seed -- leaving the occassional large chunk to be bitten into.

If you don't have the patience for grinding the seed, get the already ground anise.  (Although if you grind it yourself you'll get a much more potent, fresher taste of anise.)  You will need to reserve your patience for the aforementioned task of individually making thousands of these little cookies.

So what are Pfeffernüsse?  The German translation is Pepper Nuts.  They are not nuts.  They contain no nuts.  I did not name these cookies.  They do contain black pepper however, so at least they got that right. Our family refers to them as Pfeffer Nuts, forsaking both the original name and the proper translation, in favor of calling them whatever we want to call them. German Spanglish if you will.

The name Pepper Nuts probably hasn't ramped up your salivary glands and the picture looks deceptively unappetizing (it's not dog food, even though your dog will probably love it too) but these little nuggets are deliciously addicting and - perhaps more importantly - something different than your usual cookie or cupcake.

My family is German and it was a tradition to bake them at Christmas time.  I know they are also popular treats in Holland, etc., but you're not here for a history lesson; you're here to get fat off these lard-filled num-nums:

Grandma Knudsen's Pfeffernusse Recipe

3 1/2 C all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground cloves
1/2 t ground cardamom
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1 C butter, softened
1 C sugar
1/4 C dark molasses
1 large egg

Stir flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, salt, cloves, cardamom and pepper in large bowl.
In separate bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer.  Beat in molasses and egg.
Slowly add the flour mixture to the moist mixture.  Beat at low speed

Roll dough into logs the width of your thumb.  Place dough rolls on greased cookie sheet.  Chill 12 hours.

Cut rolls into 1/4 - 1/2 inch bits.  Place on greased cookie sheets, individually.  No need to space very far apart; they don't grow.

Bake at 350°F for 6 minutes.  Individually flip each tiny little piece over, being sure to swear out loud and b*tch about how tedious this is.  You can even cry and vow never to make Pfeffernusse again, if you think it will help.

Bake another 6 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Place on wax paper.  Let cool.  Eat them.  Get fat.  Go to the gym for 3 months to work the calories off.  Repeat.

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