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Pfeffernüsse / Soft Lady Fingers - Winter Cookies
Winter Baked Goods
When it comes to baked goods, especially cookies and cake, winter is my favorite time of year. With the addition of highly flavored spices, the aromas coming from the kitchen, and the pure pleasure of one of these confections fresh from the oven with wine or coffee, these cookies are some of the highlights of this season.
These two recipes are very different. One, the Pfeffernüsse, is highly spiced. The Other, lady-fingers, is simply sweet with a nice soft bite.
German, Danish or Dutch for "pepper nut" the cookies can contain nuts, but don't have to.
Yes, there is pepper, but it's not required. I suspect the name was actually coined due to the highly aromatic spices used in this recipe. Despite the very strong flavors, ginger is not typically an ingredient, though I've seen some recipes with ginger in them.
Instead these cookies rely on cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg for the powerful flavors.
The recipe will be divided into utensils needed, ingredients, and directions.
Please note these cookies tend to be very hard and were originally designed as a dipping cookie. In Denmark these are typically served to guests with warm sweet wine. The intention was that the guests would dip the cookie into the wine and then eat it.
I haven't tried that myself, preferring instead just to eat the cookie.
Though initially quite hard these cookies will soften up in a matter of a few days. Regardless they are delicious.
Needed to blend and cook the ingredients:
- 2 Mixing bowls
- 4 cookie sheets
- Electric Hand Mixer with wire whisk or standard beaters
The Ingredients include:
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon finely ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon finely ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon finely ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup butter -- softened or two eight ounce sticks softened at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup dark molasses
- 1 large egg
- lots and lots of powdered sugar
- 1/2 Cup chopped mixed nuts (optional), walnut, pecan, and even pistachio work well
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger (optional)
Note: Many of us get cloves and nutmeg whole. The cloves can be "powdered" in a clean coffee chopper and the nutmeg grated with a very fine grate to get the consistency needed for these cookies. If that doesn't work for you try getting powdered cloves and nutmeg. But, using whole spices (cloves and nutmeg) will give you much better, fresher flavors.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease cookie sheets and set aside.
Place flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and pepper in large bowl; stir to combine.
Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy scraping down side of bowl just once, Beat in the molasses and egg.
Gradually add flour mixture. Beat at low speed until dough forms, scraping down side of bowl once more. Form the dough into a disc; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes or up to 3 days.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove the cookies with spatula to wire racks; dust with sifted powdered sugar while still hot and then cool completely.
Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to seven days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Soft Lady Fingers
This is another favorite. Unlike the Pfeffernusse, these cookies are quite soft and are meant to be eaten alone.
Dipping one of these into a hot drink will result in cookie disintegration so I don't recommend it.
Once you taste one you may decided "neat" is the only way to eat them.
Soft Lady Finger Tools
The following utensils are required:
- 2 Mixing Bowls
- 2 Cookie sheets
- Electric Mixer with whisk attachments or standard beaters
- Piping bag (or large zip-lock plastic bag see below)
Soft Lady Finger Ingredients
The following ingredients are required for soft lady fingers:
- 5 large eggs, separated, and allowed to come to room temperature for 30 minutes
- 2/3 cup sugar, divided (see below)
- 7/8 cup all-purpose flour
- Confectioners sugar for dusting
Soft Lady Finger Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Grease two cookie sheets lightly and set aside.
Beat yolks with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale yellow, then gradually beat in all but 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar.
Continue beating at medium-high speed until paler yellow, tripled in volume, and thick enough to form a ribbon that takes 5 seconds to run-off when beater is lifted. Beating should take 5 to 7 minutes. Now sprinkle all of the flour over the mixture and stir gently until just combined (batter will be very stiff).
Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl with cleaned beaters until they just hold soft peaks. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar to the beaten egg whites in a slow stream, then beat until whites hold stiff peaks.
Fold* in the egg white mixture gently, one third of whites into flour/yolk mixture at a time, to lighten. Repeat folding with each remaining third gently until all egg white is added.The pastry is now ready to spoon into pastry bag. (see note)
Note: a large zip-lock bag can be used as a pastry bag. Spoon the batter into the bag, pack the batter down gently into one corner, and then, with a pair of scissors, cut off one small corner of the bag. I recommend cutting a small hole first and trying that. If the hole is too small you can cut a slightly larger hole until just the right diameter is attained.
Line the baking sheet with parchment (the light coating of grease will hold the paper in place). Pipe 2 rows of (3 1/2-inch-long) ladyfingers (12 to 16 per row) onto each sheet, piping them so they almost touch. Dust with confectioners sugar.
Bake until pale golden brown, dry, and soft; they should still be springy to the touch, 14 to 16 minutes should do it. Cool completely on baking sheet.
* Folding means adding one ingredient to another by gently turning on part into the other. A good fold is not stirring. Instead it is gently turning the ingredients together until just combined. Folding should not take any more than six turns of spoon. To fold efficiently turn the bowl one third rotation with each fold. Do not worry of the ingredients are completely combined. The point here is to end up with a light fluffy dough.
I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. Happy Holidays.
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