Recipe type: Dessert, Cookie
Cuisine: German
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5 dozen
This is a family favorite recipe lightly adapted from my very favorite cookbook, Joy of Cooking. The pfeffernusse are lightly sweet, spicy, chewy, and utterly delicious.
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼teaspoon salt
  • ¼teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅛ teaspoon finely ground white pepper or black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ¼ cup slivered blanched almonds, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup finely chopped candied orange zest (we used store-bought or homemade with success)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons light or dark molasses
  • 3 tablespoons brandy
  • ½ to ⅔ cups powdered sugar, for dusting baked cookies
  1. Whisk the dry ingredients together and set aside.  Whisk the molasses and brandy together and set aside.
  2. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and beat well.
  3. Stir in the almonds, candied orange zest and lemon zest.
  4. Add ⅓ of the dry ingredients alternating with ½ of the brandy, ending with the dry ingredients.
  5. Cover the dough and chill for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days to allow flavors to blend.
  6. To bake, preheat oven to 350 °F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or grease well.
  7. Pull off pieces of the dough (we do about 1 Tbsp. for larger and ½ Tbsp. for smaller) and roll into ¾" 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.
  8. 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 resealable bag for this step.)  Let cool completely.  (If freezing baked cookies, don't dust with powdered sugar until they've been thawed.)
The brandy can be omitted and water used instead. Other types of liqueur can be used such as Grand Marnier, rum, or Drambuie.
Recipe by Cafe Johnsonia at