German for "pepper nut," pfeffernusse cookies are named for the pinch of pepper added to the dough before baking. It joins a quartet of warm spices -- cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.



To decorate (optional)


Instructions Checklist
  • Cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter, brown sugar, and molasses on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture; beat until just combined. Pinch off a heaping teaspoon of dough, roll into a ball, and place on a prepared baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining dough, spacing balls 1 1/2 inches apart. (Dough can be frozen at this point, covered tightly with plastic wrap, up to 1 month.)

  • Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are golden and firm to the touch with slight cracking, about 15 minutes. Transfer sheets to a wire rack to cool completely.

  • Glaze: Fit a rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack. In a medium bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar, milk, and kirsch, if desired. Using a fork, dip each cookie in glaze to coat. Tap to remove excess glaze and place on wire rack to dry. Repeat with remaining cookies.

  • To decorate: While the glaze is still wet, top cookies with a small pinch of peppercorns, if desired. Alternatively, let glaze dry completely before mixing together luster dust and kirsch with a small paintbrush. Lightly brush tops of cookies with luster dust mixture, if desired. Let dry before serving. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 weeks.


You can skip the glaze and decorations and finish the cookies with confectioners' sugar instead. Place 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar in a brown paper bag. After baking, transfer sheets to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Working in batches, place cookies in paper bag; shake until well coated. Let cool completely on wire rack.

Reviews (1)

230 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 44
  • 4 star values: 70
  • 3 star values: 71
  • 2 star values: 36
  • 1 star values: 9
Rating: 5 stars
My all time favorite cookies! I could have them, breakfast lunch and dinner!! Just brew a nice strong pot of tea! I tried just sprinkling powder sugar, once. Give me the hard shells!! They are rather messy, but, oh so worth it!! Thanx for sharing this recipe!!raf