Christmas Spice Cookies: German Pfeffernusse and Dutch Speculaas

Here are my favorite recipes for German and Dutch spice cookies. I make the pfeffernusse every year. They are spicy, nutty and so delicious; a good make-ahead cookie as they can be baked several weeks in advance and stored in a tin where the flavor improves with age. The recipe is slightly adapted from The Great Holiday Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas. The spiced confectioner’s sugar came from Gourmet Magazine. The Dutch speculaas are one of my daughter’s favorite Christmas cookies to share with friends.

German Pfeffernusse
1 c. unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 c. toasted hazelnuts, finely ground
2-1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. fine salt
1 tsp. freshly ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of ground ginger

Spiced Confectioner’s Sugar
1 c. sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground allspice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and nuts. In a separate bowl combine flour with baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Stir well. Slowly add to the wet ingredients to form a somewhat stiff dough. Roll dough into small balls and place on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies are set and light golden. While the cookies are baking combine all ingredients for the spiced confectioner’s sugar. Mix well. Remove cookies from the oven and set on a rack. While still warm roll pfeffernusse in spiced confectioner’s sugar. Cool on rack completely. Store in a tin for 2-3 weeks. Makes 5 dozen cookies.

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Dutch Speculaas
1 c. unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1-1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/2 tsp. orange or lemon zest (I prefer orange)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. fine salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. freshly ground anise seed
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. freshly ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 c. finely ground toasted almonds

In a mixing bowl beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, citrus zest, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Sift the dry ingredients and spices and slowly add them to the wet ingredients. Add nuts. The dough will be a bit sticky. Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several half sheet baking pans with parchment paper. Divide dough in half. Take one half and roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. You may need to sprinkle the dough with a little extra flour. Spray a wooden cookie mold then dip the mold in flour, press mold into the rolled out dough and cut out cookies. Place on baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake 8-9 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. Remove from oven. Cool on rack. Store in a tin for up to 1 week or freeze. Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar before serving. Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.

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