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Peppernuts

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Just about every country in northern Europe has some version of these spicy drops in its Christmas cookie culture. The cookies are often allowed to dry out until they are rock hard. In my recipe, they aren’t exactly soft, but they aren’t dangerous to your teeth either. They are properly spicy with pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and anise.

NotesMake Ahead: The cookies can be baked up to 2 months ahead. Age the cookies for 2 days before serving.

Cooking Methodbaking

CostInexpensive

Easy

Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursedessert

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Mealdinner, tea

Taste and Texturecrisp, spiced, sweet

Type of Dishcookie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon anise seed, crushed in a mortar or under a heavy pot
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup finely chopped candied citron or candied lemon or orange peel
  • ¼ cup dark rum or brandy
  • 1½ cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • About 4 tablespoons water

Instructions

  1. Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 350°F.

  2. In a medium saucepan, bring the honey and butter to a boil over medium heat, stirring to melt the butter. Transfer to a large bowl and cool to room temperature. (Place the saucepan in a large bowl of ice water to speed up the process if you wish.) Add the eggs and mix well.

  3. In a large bowl, sift the flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon, anise, nutmeg, pepper, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, and salt together. In three additions, stir the dry ingredients into the honey mixture, adding the candied citron with the last addition of flour. Stir in the rum to make a stiff dough.

  4. Using a level tablespoon for each, roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Place the balls about 1 inch apart on cookie sheets lined with nonstick baking pads.

  5. Bake, switching the position of the cookie sheets from top to bottom and back to front halfway through baking, until the cookies are lightly browned and feel firm when pressed with a finger, about 20 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheets.

  6. To make the icing, mix together the confectioners’ sugar with enough water in a small bowl until the glaze is the thickness of heavy cream. One at a time, holding the cookies upside down, dip the tops of the cookies into the glaze. Let the excess glaze drip off, then place the cookies right side up on wire racks to cool completely. (The cookies can be stored for up to 2 weeks in airtight containers at room temperature.) If possible, age the cookies for 2 days before serving.

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