I’ve shared my favorite Christmas cookie. This is my husband’s favorite–Pfeffurnusse.

Pfeffernusse.  Apparently they are my daughter’s favorite Christmas cookie too.  Her dad thought she was kidding when she asked for a spicy, “sugar” cookie.  She ate every last crumb and asked for another.  We looked at each other in astonishment.  Never have our children liked spicy, grown-up cookies.

These cookies embody everything I love in holiday baking–orange, spices, molasses, almonds…and a little brandy.

Most recipes for pfeffernusse don’t spread quite this much.  You’ll see them much smaller.  We kind of like them this way.  You can add more flour if you prefer a thicker, denser cookie–more like a peppernut, as they are named.

One batch never seems to make enough, so we double or triple it.  The cookies get much better as they sit and will stay good for a month, maybe more.  I’m not sure if they’ve ever lasted that long though.

Pfeffernusse (Peppernuts)
from Joy of Cooking
Makes about 5 dozen 1″ cookies

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper (we used finely ground white pepper)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt (we used 1/4 tsp.)
1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped candied orange zest (we used store-bought or homemade with success)
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
3 Tbsp. light or dark molasses
3 Tbsp. brandy
1/2 to 2/3 cups powdered sugar, for dusting baked cookies

Whisk the dry ingredients together and set aside.  Whisk the molasses and brandy together and set aside.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and beat well.

Stir in the almonds, candied orange zest and lemon zest.

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients alternating with 1/2 of the liquid, ending with the dry ingredients.

Cover the dough and chill for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days to allow flavors to blend.

To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or grease well.

Pull off pieces of the dough (we do about 1 Tbsp. for larger and 1/2 Tbsp. for smaller) and roll into 3/4″ balls.  Space about 1-inch apart on baking sheets.  Bake, one sheet at a time, rotating the sheet halfway through baking time, for about 12-14 minutes or until cookies are faintly tinged with brown on top and slightly darker at the edges.

Transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool for a few minutes and then roll the cookies in the powdered sugar.  (We put the powdered sugar in a large ziploc bag for this step.)  Let cool completely.  (If freezing baked cookies, don’t dust with powdered sugar until they’ve been thawed.)

What are your favorite holiday cookies?

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