Friday, November 18, 2011

Plain Peppernuts (Christmas Cookies) - Margaret Ullrich

What would Christmas be without pepper?
No, I'm not talking about the dash added to the gravy.

Although that's good, too.

Pepper is something just about everybody has in the kitchen.
The salt shaker would look awfully lonely with its buddy, pepper shaker.

Pepper is a really useful spice.
You can crack or coarsely grind peppercorns to coat steaks or chicken breasts 
before grilling.

Freshly ground (or pre-ground) pepper has a few surprising uses:
Sprinkle strawberries lightly with pepper and balsamic vinegar
Try pepper on ripe melon slices or grapefruit halves
Add pepper to gingerbread or spice cookie dough 

Yes, cookie dough.

When I was a kid in College Point, a classmate introduced me to peppernuts.
It's a traditional Christmas treat.

The cookies are better if allowed to age a bit.

Some hints: the ropes of dough can be frozen.
Place 4 or 5 ropes on a cutting board and slice across all of them at one time.
The frozen dough is easy to cut into thin uniform-sized cookies. 

As the saying goes...
Good things are made with time.
Now is a perfect time to make a batch for Christmas. 

                        Plain Peppernuts

Grease 3 large baking sheets

In a large bowl sift together
4 Cups flour
3  teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon black pepper

In a large mixer bowl beat together until light and fluffy
3 Cups sugar
1 Cup margarine (or lard)

Beat in, one at a time, until blended
4 large eggs

Beat in
1 Cup milk

Add the sifted dry ingredients.
Mix until blended.
Add enough flour to make a very stiff dough.
Knead thoroughly.

Store dough in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator overnight or longer.
This helps the spices to blend.

Divide the dough into thirds.
Roll a piece between your hands into a thin rope.
Slice with a sharp knife (dipped in flour).
You want pieces about the size of a hazelnut.
Place them on the cookie sheets.
Repeat with the remaining dough. 

Preheat oven to 350ยบ
Bake 7 to 10 minutes until lightly golden.
Different degrees of browning changes the flavour and texture.
Transfer to racks and cool completely.

Keep them crisp in a glass jar or an airtight container.

Looking for something edible that mails well?
Boxes of peppernuts are ideal.
They don't crumble or dry out.

And peppernuts freeze well.

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