Recipe: Pfeffernüsse Cookies


Baking cookies was a very special holiday tradition in my family growing up. We didn’t usually have time to bake from scratch most of the year, but come Christmas, our kitchen became a factory of old family cookbooks, cookie shooters and tins of cookies (that my sister wouldn’t let us eat until our guests arrived on Christmas Eve). In those days leading up to Christmas, we made up for all of the pre-boxed mixes we’d been guilty of using the rest of the year – and my love of baking (and experimenting) was born.

There’s one cookie that encompasses Christmas for me; Pfeffernüsse cookies (pronounced fef-fur-noose), are traditional German Christmas cookies, covered in powdered sugar. They always make me think of Christmas—and my mother. As a child, it just wasn’t Christmas time until our local bakery offered these powdered sugar treats – which held us over until we baked our own. These cookies are traditionally very hard and firm once baked, so they are best paired with coffee or tea. My natural attraction to them is simple – they contain similar spices to that found in chai (my favorite tea). These cookies are comprised of winter spices full of warm flavors, which means they literally taste like Winter. Biting into one of these cookies fills me with the essence of mulled spices, the warmth of a wood burning fire, and the feeling of snow falling outside my window while I am cuddled up with a good book.

I’ve changed the traditional recipe a bit by adding Indian inspired spices like cardamom and garam masala, while balancing them out with mellow flavors like lavender and orange peel – oh, and bourbon – I added a bit of that just because. What you end up with is a softer cookie with a tapestry of flavorful notes. This recipe may seem overwhelming with all of the ingredients, but don’t be intimidated – it’s a really easy to bake.

Pfeffernüsse Cookies



  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon cooking lavender
  • 2 teaspoons ground orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger or ginger paste
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • *Optional 3 tbsp. of bourbon (or other alcohol
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar (for coating cookies)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well blended.
  3. In a large mixing bowl beat the butter, brown sugar, ginger paste, molasses, and bourbon with an electric mixer on medium speed, until well blended, about 3 minutes.
  4. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and beat just until combined.
  6. Roll dough into 1 1/4-inch balls and arrange them about 2 inches apart on parchment lined cookie sheets.
  7. Bake about 15 minutes, or until they are golden with slight cracking on top and firm to the touch.
  8. Remove from the oven and place cookies on wire racks.
  9. Place confectioner’s sugar in a medium bowl placing cooled cookies, a few at a time, in the bowl until coated with confectioner’s sugar.
  10. Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Enjoy with coffee or tea!