Today’s holiday dessert is a traditional German gingerbread cookie, Pfeffernüsse! (Translated to mean pepper nuts). Each cookie is a tiny morsel, yet packed with fragrant spices and citrus zest. If you enjoy desserts this time of year with traditional aromatic spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, you will definitely be a fan these mini gingerbread cookies!
A Week of Christmas: Day 3
(German Spice Cookies)
Over the weekend, I have been lucky to perform a handful of Christmas concerts in this stunning Vancouver cathedral. In between pieces, the narrator fills silences with some traditional Christmas literature. (I love listening in to what he has to say while getting my music ready for the next piece.)
During yesterday afternoon’s concert, the narrator’s readings brought me back to winter nights when I was 12, bundled up by the fire with my nose in a book. An excerpt was read from the Wind in the Willows, one of my favourite animal-themed novels as a child. (Did you ever get into those too? I was also a huge fan of rat-themed novel series..)
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame. Chapter 5
At last the Rat succeeded in decoying Mole to the table, and had just got seriously to work with the sardine-opener when sounds were heard from the fore-court without— sounds like the scuffling of small feet in the gravel and a confused murmur of tiny voices, while broken sentences reached them— ‘Now, all in a line— hold the lantern up a bit, Tommy— clear your throats first— no coughing after I say one, two, three.— Where’s young Bill?— Here, come on, do, we’re all a-waiting——’
‘What’s up?’ inquired the Rat, pausing in his labours.
‘I think it must be the field-mice,’ replied the Mole, with a touch of pride in his manner. ‘They go round carol-singing regularly at this time of the year. They’re quite an institution in these parts. And they never pass me over— they come to Mole End last of all; and I used to give them hot drinks, and supper too sometimes, when I could afford it. It will be like old times to hear them again.’
‘Let’s have a look at them!’ cried the Rat, jumping up and running to the door.
It was a pretty sight, and a seasonable one, that met their eyes when they flung the door open. In the fore-court, lit by the dim rays of a horn lantern, some eight or ten little fieldmice stood in a semicircle, red worsted comforters round their throats, their fore-paws thrust deep into their pockets, their feet jigging for warmth. With bright beady eyes they glanced shyly at each other, sniggering a little, sniffing and applying coat- sleeves a good deal. As the door opened, one of the elder ones that carried the lantern was just saying, ‘Now then, one, two, three!’ and forthwith their shrill little voices uprose on the air, singing one of the old-time carols that their forefathers composed in fields that were fallow and held by frost, or when snow-bound in chimney corners, and handed down to be sung in the miry street to lamp-lit windows at Yule-time.
The voices ceased, the singers, bashful but smiling, exchanged sidelong glances, and silence succeeded— but for a moment only. Then, from up above and far away, down the tunnel they had so lately travelled was borne to their ears in a faint musical hum the sound of distant bells ringing a joyful and clangorous peal.
‘Very well sung, boys!’ cried the Rat heartily. ‘And now come along in, all of you, and warm yourselves by the fire, and have something hot!’
I love Grahame’s writing. It is so imaginative and descriptive. Do you have any favourite novels from your childhood? I could go on..
But enough stories for now! Here is your promised recipe of the day:
½ cup honey ⅓ cup fancy molasses 2 tbsp. butter 2 eggs, at room temperature 2 cups all purpose flour ½ cup candied orange peel, finely chopped* ⅓ cup almonds, finely chopped ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon ¾ tsp. ground black pepper ¾ tsp. ground cloves ¾ tsp. ground cardamom 1 tsp. ground ginger ½ tsp. baking powder 2 tbsp. vegetable oil 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted 1–2 tbsp. light rum
1. Put honey, molasses, and butter into a small pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until hot, 2–3 minutes. Do not let it boil. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Add eggs and whisk to combine. Put flour, orange peel, almonds, cinnamon, pepper, cloves, cardamom, and baking powder into a large bowl and stir to combine. Add honey mixture and beat with a wooden spoon until well combined, to form a dough. Cover surface of dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Lightly oil your palms with some of the oil. Divide the dough in half and roll into 1/2 inch wide rolls. (the dough will be very sticky, so keep your hands lightly oiled while working). With a sharp knife, cut 1 inch slices along the rolls and place cookies 1 inch apart on your prepared cookie sheets.
4. Bake until slightly cracked on top and just firm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely.
5. Fill a plastic bag with icing sugar and place cooled cookies inside. Give the bag a shake, then place iced cookies in an airtight conainer to store. (Or share/eat immediately!) Cookies can be stored layered between sheets of wax paper up to one week. Or freeze them on the day of in a sealed package.
Recipe Credit: Cook’s Country magazine 2009.
I hope you enjoy your tiny treats. They are perfect little Christmas desserts to present on a cookie platter, and are a great conversation starter for your guests.. Who can pronounce Pfeffernüse the best? (I was way off!)
Have a great Sunday. What are you up to? I’m looking forward to getting some work done this afternoon, checking off last minute Christmas items off my list, (aka finishing that knitting project!..) and then spending some time with my Mom this evening. I hope you enjoy your day as well.
PS: A hipstery t-shirt (for your man?) describing a pretty sweet Vancouver afternoon (in my books).
PPS: Love this print! (Terrified of the game..thanks to my snowball-obsessed brother!)