Denmark: Pebernodder

Known as Pebernødder in Denmark, peppernut cookies are found in all of the Nordic countries as well as Germany and the US. They are called "pfeffernüesse" in the United States, "pfeffernüssen" in Germany, "pepperkaker" in Norway, "pepparnotter" in Sweden, "peppernoten" in Holland and even "piparkukas" in Latvia. In South Germany, they are known as "Eiweißgebäck". They are also known as "Pimpernüsse" in some places.

These tiny ball-shaped cookies are full of spices and the ingredient for which they're named--pepper. Traditionally served at Christmastime, the Danish twist includes the use of white pepper rather than black and mace instead of nutmeg.
Contrary to popular belief, traditional peppernuts DO NOT contain anise oil or anise seeds. There are a myriad amount of recipes containing everything from honey to corn syrup, molasses, or anise, but they are not authentically Pebernodder.

The pfeffernuesse that you see in the United States are often made with baking soda and even baking powder. They’re also made into 3/4” balls before baking so that they’re a larger, fluffier cookie. When they cool off a little, they’re coated with powdered sugar -- delicious, but not authentic.

Pebernødder (peppernuts)

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, or as needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two to three baking sheets.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in the cardamom, cinnamon, mace or nutmeg, cloves, pepper, and salt until well blended.

Mix in the flour, one cup at a time, until the dough gathers together. With floured hands, pinch off small, 1/2 teaspoon amounts of dough, roll into tiny balls, and place on prepared baking sheets. Alternately, you can roll the dough into 3/8" ropes and use a knife or scissors to cut them into small pieces.

Bake in preheated oven until bottom of cookies are light tan, 10 to 12 minutes.

Cool 15 minutes on baking sheets. Store in an airtight container.


Anonymous said...

They originated in the Netherlands where they are called Pepernoten.
And in Germany they are actually called Pfeffernüsse.

Anonymous said...

My husband's family is Danish and these are exactly like the ones his mother makes every year at Christmastime.

Anonymous said...

What is the basis of your statement that recipes containing molasses are not authentic Danish pebernodder. My grandmother immigrated to the US from Denmark in 1910. Her 100+ year old recipe for pebernodder used molasses. A search of my Danish cookbooks in English and the internet for recipes in both English and Danish turns up some recipes with various combinations molasses, cane syrup, brown sugar and some without.

Anonymous said...

My mom and I have been looking for the recipe our Danish aunts used to make when we were kids, respectively. She says this is the one she remembers. Thanks so much!

Denelle in TN

Anonymous said...

This seems close to the recipe that Mom used but I dont remember the eggs. She started it right after Holloween and for weeks it sat covered on the back of the counter and she would knead brandy into it every other day. She also had ground nuts in it mixed with the flour. I guess I will keep looking. This may adapt. Thanks

Chef Mom said...

Thanks for the feedback. I try to make sure that these recipes are truly authentic, but I have found that many of the "classics" have subtle variations. In some cases it's regional, and in other cases it's personal preference.

If you can find that recipe, let me know and I'd be happy to try it!

ky.breanne said...

My grandmother is German and her mom and grandmother used to make these cookies for her all the time when she was little at Christmas! The recipe she gave me is almost identical to this one! The only thing different is, she leaves out cinnamon (but that's out of preference) and she puts baking soda in hers because she likes them softer. I prefer them crunchier. Thank you for posting this recipe! :)

Anonymous said...

My Danish grandmother who immigrated to Canada in the '60s adds slivered almonds to this recipe and refrigerates the batter for at least 24 hours before baking.

Neil Olsen said...

I couldn't find molasses when I lived in Denmark