Here’s a lovely recipe for a traditional German Christmas biscuits/cookies called Pfeffernüsse. They are a little bit lebkuchen-ish, a little bit like old-fashioned macaroons, spicy, very more-ish, and have the great advantage of keeping incredibly well. So you can give them as gifts from your kitchen without having to insist on them being eaten within 2 days or that they need to be refrigerated… They actually get better with age.
Notes on the recipe:
The dough needs to mature overnight, so begin the cookies the day before you need them.
If you don’t like candied peel then a lovely alternative is to use finely chopped crystallised ginger – but that does make them pretty gingery – you could reduce the amount of ground ginger to 1/4 teaspoon if this worries you. Cardamom is a bit of a Marmite flavour for some people, feel free to omit this if you are baking these for folks whose taste you are unsure of, the cookies will still be delicious.
- 2 large eggs
- 300g caster sugar
- 80g whole candied peel, finely chopped
- 40g ground almonds
- zest of half lemon
- 325g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 3-4 gratings of whole nutmeg
- 1-2 tbsp or brandy or milk
For the icing:
- 250g icing sugar
- juice of 1/2 lemon plus 1 tbsp water
- Use an electric whisk or food mixer with whisk attachment to beat the eggs and sugar together until they are light and fluffy, and doubled in volume – this takes about 5 minutes.
- Add the peel, almonds and lemon zest to the eggs & sugar and stir to combine.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and spices into the egg mixture and then stir to combine. You can do this by hand or using the beater/paddle you use for cake mixes on your food mixer.
- The dough needs to be soft and silky – if it feels dry and crumbly at this stage, add a little brandy or milk to improve the texture. Kneed for a minute or two until the dough is smooth.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- When you want to cook the biscuits, line 2 or 3 baking sheets with baking parchment and preheat oven to 160C (325F, Gas Mark 3).
- Take small lumps of the dough and roll into balls about 1 inch to 1.5 inches in diameter, and place on the baking sheets, at least 1.5 inches apart.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes – the cookies will spread a little and the surface will crack – they are done when they are light golden brown in colour. Leave to cook on the trays for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
- Meanwhile mix the lemon juice, water and icing sugar together. The icing needs to be thick enough that it doesn’t slide off the cookies – if it seems a bit thin (or thick!) after you have iced the first couple of cookies you can adjust accordingly. You definitely have enough to allow for a couple of mistakes (and they are the baker’s perks after all..).