Germany and Holland practically invented Christmas. Thanks to them we have the Christmas tree and plates of sweets. They also gave us pfefferneuse or pfeffernusse, the staple of many a cookie tray. What would the holiday be without them?
Pfeffernusse means peppered nuts because there are ground walnuts and almonds in them. They originated in Holland where they were called pepernoten. Germans also loved the richly spiced taste of these cookies and incorporated them into their holidays sweets.They were brought here in the mid 1800's when waves of German immigrants flooded the US. They are a cookie not for the faint hearted. Pfeffernusse are richly spiced with cardamon, black or white pepper and cloves. They may taste too medicinal for the average shortbread or butter cookie lover.
If you do love these spicy little rounds the question is to bake or to buy? Pfeffernussesare about as labor intensive as any other spice cookie. Only German bakeries really carry truly authentic kinds. If you do get the mass produced store bought variety, then you're stuck with hard little lumps that have an unpleasant taste and glue like icing. (although Target has a chai spice cookie sold year round that actually comes very similar in taste to real homemade pfeffernusse) . The best bet is visit your local bakery if there's a good German or even Dutch one in your area. If not bake up a batch for the holidays.
Pfeffernusse is a holiday treat that can't be missed. Have a few for a very old fashioned Dutch or German Christmas.