Friday, December 10, 2010

Pepper Nuts: The Gold Standard


Once upon a time it was impossible to purchase a 20 pound tub of Kirkland brand cinnamon for a fiver at Costco.  In fact, spices were a commodity held as precious as gold.  Sometimes more so.

Back in the day during the holidays, the gentry broke out the big guns (or rather, they paid the menial class to break out the big guns) and seasonings found their way into all manner of comestible where otherwise they'd be absent. And in Germany, no other morsel found itself as soused in gewürtz as pfeffernüsse.  Drunk on pepper, ginger, cardamom and a bevy of goodies shipped at great expense from the East, the little pepper nut is a confectionary piece of historical Christmas excess.  Enjoy it today at a fraction of the price.


Pfeffernüsse

INGREDIENTS

3 cups all purpose flour
2 sticks of unsalted butter (8 ounces)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom

(confectioner's sugar for dusting)

PROCEDURE
-With the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time until combined.  Add vanilla bean extract and honey and beat until well combined.
-Stir together dry ingredients and slowly add to the butter/sugar mixture until the dough begins to clump.
–Turn out the dough on to a very lightly floured work surface and gently knead the dough until all the ingredients are incorporated, being careful not to overwork the dough.  Refrigerate for 1/2 hour.


-Scoop the dough with a 1 1/2 teaspoon cookie scooper or hand roll small pieces of dough.  Space on a parchment lined sheet pan an inch apart and bake at 350º for 10 minutes, turning the sheet pan half way through the baking process.  The cookies should be firm to the touch and golden brown on the bottom.
-Allow the cookies to completely cook and dust liberally with confectioner's sugar.