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.

Martha Bakes, Episode 904


Credit: Mike Krautter

Recipe Summary

Makes about 60


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 (2)

230 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 44
  • 4 star values: 70
  • 3 star values: 71
  • 2 star values: 36
  • 1 star values: 9
Rating: 5.0 stars
Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of negative ratings here due to people's feelings about Martha Stewart. Personal opinions aside, these cookies are amazingly delicious. The sweetness of the glaze compliments the spiced cookie very nicely. The one recommendation I would make is to refrigerate the dough for at least an hour before making the dough balls as the dough is very sticky and difficult to work with at room temperature.
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