This is a classic spiced holiday cookie, filled with nuts and candied citrus peels. The dough is rolled out into ropes, which are cut into small nuggets, so don’t be put off by the high yield; the work goes fast and folks eat these a handful at a time. They greatly improve with age, so do not skip that step. These German cookies have several distinguishing characteristics. They are flavored with pepper, either white or black, among other spices, and the cookie dough is allowed to dry overnight before baking. Also, many modern renditions use butter to make a softer, richer cookie. This is a classic recipe, which, while crunchier, allows for very long storage—a real benefit at Christmastime.
NotesLifespan: 1 month at room temperature in airtight container
185 tiny cookies
Total Timea day or more
Dietary Considerationkosher, peanut free, soy free, vegetarian
Taste and Texturespiced, sweet
Type of Dishcookie, dessert
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup whole blanched almonds
- ¼ cup diced candied lemon peel
- ¼ cup diced candied orange peel
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon white or black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- Confectioners’ sugar, sifted, OR
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 5 teaspoons hot water, or as needed
Place flour and almonds in food processor and process until nuts are finely ground and powdery. Add candied peels and pulse until peels are finely minced. Pulse in baking powder salt, pepper, and spices.
Combine eggs and brown sugar in a large bowl and whisk vigorously until thick and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add about one-third of flour mixture stirring with a wooden spoon. Add remaining flour mixture, stirring just until combined and dough begins to come away from sides of bowl. Scrape dough onto large piece of plastic wrap and form dough into 2 very flat discs, cover completely with wrap, and refrigerate until firm enough to roll into ropes, at least 2 hours or overnight.
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Take a handful of dough at a time and roll it beneath your palms on a lightly floured surface into a ½-inch-diameter rope. Cut each rope into 1-inch lengths. Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheets. Allow to ripen at room temperature overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake until light golden brown around edges, about 15 minutes. Slide parchment onto racks. If using just confectioners’ sugar, place it in a bowl and toss warm cookies in to coat, then transfer to rack to cool completely.
Alternatively, whisk together confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and enough hot water in a small bowl to form a very fluid glaze. Dip tops of cookies in glaze, then place glaze side up on racks to cool completely.
Ripen cookies at least 1 week by storing in an airtight container along with a slice of apple. Store in small groups of about 2 cups each for every slice of apple so that the moisture provided by the fruit is effective.
2003 Dede Wilson