Sunday, December 6, 2015

Anna Sultana’s Pfeffernüsse (German Christmas Cookies)


I just posted a link to an old Christmas post 
It’s the sort of stuff I wrote when I was a host on the radio.

Yes, that was in the last century.
But, here we are, in the twenty-first century, still having to buy Christmas gifts.
Progress, eh?


In that essay I wrote:
While you're shopping, get yourself some treats.  
I have a friend who picks up a bag of pfeffernusse cookies every year.  When she feels like all she's doing is giving, giving, giving, she pops a pfeffernusse and gives herself an old time Christmas.  It doesn't take much.  

Of course I just got an e mail asking for the pfeffernuss recipe.
No problem.
Pfeffernüsse were popular in College Point, and Ma got the recipe from a friend.
The recipe she received called for rolling the cookies in powdered sugar until completely covered.
Ma preferred making them with icing, and this is the recipe she used.


First a bit of history….
Pfeffernüsse have been a part of the holiday season since the 1850s.
They are linked to the December 5th feast of Sinterklaas in The Netherlands, when children received gifts from good old St. Nicholas. 
So we are talking a traditional Christmas recipe here.

Pfeffernüsse cookies are like a stew.
Better if they’ve had a chance to age a bit.
Just so you know when you make them next year.

But they smell so good, everyone enjoys eating them fresh from the oven.
Still, it’s nice to know the leftovers will be even better.


Back to the  ‘Christmas on the Cheap’…
Now's the time to serve the family a plate or two of pasta fagioli.

God bless us, everyone. 


Hints: 

After forming the ropes, wrap them in wax paper or cling wrap and refrigerate them for a half an hour or longer, even overnight.  
Chilling the dough makes it easier to handle, but you can skip this if you're in a rush.

Roll enough dough balls to fill one baking sheet, then bake them while you make more.
Even though you’re baking one sheet at a time, grease 3 sheets so you will have a cool sheet available each time.
It's best to place the dough on cool cookie sheets so they will keep their shapes better.


About the royal icing and raw egg whites…
If you’re absolutely sure about your grade A eggs, you can use 4 egg whites.
But please be careful.
Salmonella is no joke. 
You can find cartons of pasteurized egg whites in the dairy section.

If you don’t want to make the icing, roll the cookies in powdered sugar while they are still warm.  
If the cookies are cold the powdered sugar won’t stick as well to them.


Pfeffernüsse are soft when first baked, but quickly become harder.  
As they age, they soften.
When Pfeffernüsse are hard, they are great dunked in hot tea or milk.  

Pfeffernüsse will store up to 8 weeks in airtight containers at room temperature. 


                        Pfeffernüsse 

Makes about 100 cookies          

Grease 3 cookie sheets 

Place in a large mixer bowl 
1 Cup butter
1 Cup sugar
Beat until fluffy.
Add and mix well after each addition
2 large eggs 
1/2 Cup white corn syrup
1/2 Cup molasses
2 Tablespoons ground anise seed (more or less)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine in a measuring cup
1/3 Cup warm water
1 teaspoon baking soda
Add to the mixture and blend well.

Gradually stir in
6 1/2 Cups flour
The dough will be stiff.
Don't be shy about using your hands to get the dough mixed.

Take a portion of the dough and form a rope about one inch in diameter.  
Repeat until you’ve formed all of the dough into ropes.
At this point you can wrap and chill the dough (see hints).

When you are ready to bake, place the oven rack in the centre of the oven.        
Preheat oven to 375º F

Cut one inch pieces of dough from the ropes and roll them into small balls.  
Place the balls on a prepared cookie sheet, leaving about an inch between them.
Bake one sheet at a time, if you have the time.
Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until they are brown on top.
Remove cookies from the pans and cool them on wire racks.


                        Royal Icing

After the cookies are completely cooled, place the wire racks on the cookie sheets.

Place in a clean large bowl 
3 ounces pasteurized egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Beat at high speed until foamy. 
Mixing at low speed, gradually add 
4 Cups sifted confectioners’ sugar        
The mixture will be shiny. 
Turn the speed up to high and beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks (about 5 to 7 minutes). 

Dip each cookie into the icing to coat all over and place them on the wire racks to allow the excess icing to drip off. 

Make sure the icing is hard on the top and bottom before removing them.

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