Growing up, one of the memories I have of staying with a Great Aunty was drinking tea and eating iced biscuits whose name I didn’t know. I only ever ate these biscuits at this one Aunty’s house, and I thought they were so very special. It was only when I was much older – well into my twenties – that I found them in the supermarket. Pfeffernüsse, that was them! And they were only a dollar a bag! I immediately brought some, and my dad and I agreed that these were the biscuits we both remembered.
Then I got a wild idea last year that I should make them myself. I came across The Daring Gourmet’s Best Authentic Pfeffernüsse, and she is not exaggerating! They’re so good that my daughter begged for a pfeffernüsse tower instead of a birthday cake this March, despite my insistence that these should be saved for December so they stay special. Everyone seems to love them, and even though most people won’t tell you to your face if they don’t love your cooking, they seem pretty enthusiastic about this recipe. I’ve tried a few other recipes, for science, but none of them come even close to these. I won’t take any credit for these beautiful gingerbread cookies, because I barely deviate from the original recipe, but I do find the website a little unwieldly, especially juggling two pages for the biscuit and the spice mix, so I’m putting it all together, here.
The spice mix recipe makes enough for at least two batches of
pfeffernüsse, but it lasts a long time in a dark cupboard, and you’ll probably be reaching for it a few times, so go to town! The recipe takes a bit of forethought and planning, so having the spices ready to go makes life a lot easier.
Calories? Well, technically 150 per pfeffernüsse, but I’m yet to meet the person who can stop at one.
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 star anise, ground
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- If purchasing spices already ground, combine all ingredients in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 12 months. If your spices are whole, use a grinder or mortar and pestle (I’ve even resorted to a ramekin and a wooden rolling pin) to grind them as fine as possible. Discard any woody bits of star anise that don’t grind enough.
2 1/4 cups self raising flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3-4 teaspoons pfeffernüsse spice
1/4 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons thickened cream
1 large egg
For the Glaze:
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
3 tablespoons hot water
Food colouring (optional – white is traditional)
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, pfeffernüsse spice, white pepper and almond meal. Stir well.
- In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, honey, butter and cream. Melt over medium heat until smooth and combined. Cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
- Pour melted butter mixture into dry ingredients and beat until very well combined. Add egg, and stir until the mixture is completely combined and has a nice shine. It will seem very wet and sticky – it dries out as it rests.
- Tear off a large piece of cling film and double wrap, very tightly. Refrigerate overnight, or for up to 48 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
- Remove dough from fridge and roll two teaspoons worth into balls, placing 2-3 cm apart, as they do spread a little. Bake for about 15 minutes: they should be firm but not hard or darkened.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
- Combine the ingredients for the glaze in a bowl and mix to combine. You want the consistency to be thick enough to hold on, but not so thick as to rip the fragile biscuit.
- Dip each biscuit into the glaze, place on a wire rack with baking paper underneath, and allow to set completely.