Peppernuts-Pfeffernusse-Pepernoten and How to Make These Cookies
Recipe for the 18th Century Original Dutch Peppernuts
In my country (the Netherlands) peppernuts (pepernoten) are unrelentingly bonded with the celebration of the birthday of Saint Nicolas, which is officially celebrated on December 5. Saint Nicolas (not to be confused with the Christmas Santa) was the patron saint of the children.
Today's peppernuts - fabricated by the big factories - are quite different from what they originally looked like and tasted in the 17th and 18th Century. Today's nuts are made of gingerbread and have no pepper in them at all, let alone the honey and the syrup and the anise.
I found this old 18th century recipe in an old book and I will gladly share it with you.
Instant Cooking Recipes Units Conversion
In the Netherlands we use kilos and grams so it's always a bit difficult for me to know the exact measurements other countries use. I found this very helpful cooking recipes units conversion on the internet and it has always been quite helpful to me.
I will however give the measurements in grams and then you can make your own unit conversion.
- 300 gram of rye flower
- 25 gram of water
- 75 gram of honey
- 75 gram syrup (maple or any other kind)
- 100 gram of dark brown sugar
- 12 gram of grounded anise seeds (or powder if available)
- 4 gram of salt
- a pinch or two of dark pepper
- 10 gram of baking powder
- Heat the honey with the syrup to about 90 degrees
- Add the brown sugar and stir it firmly
- Add the rye flower and mix it into a soft dough
- Add the other ingredients and mix the dough firmly. In this recipe they suggest you put oil on your hands before kneading
- Let the dough rest for a while
- Cut off a slice and roll it into a long roll of about 1,5 cm diameter
- Take a knife and cut the roll in little pieces. You can either let them as they are or form little balls with your hands
- Take a baking form and put baking paper inside. They suggest to not take a baking tray, but a form with high sides like a round cake form so the nuts won't burn at the sides too quickly.
- Put in the pieces of dough, leaving space between them
- Set the oven at 180 degrees and bake the pepper nuts in 20 minutes. Not a second longer or they will burn and get hard as a rock.
I Didn't Follow the Recipe and Made Some Mistakes
I must confess I'm not so good at following recipes. I started out to follow this recipe, but then I made the mistake of not following it step by step. I didn't read carefully and was too hasty. After the heating of the honey and syrup I threw in all the other ingredients, including the baking powder which resulted in a lot of bubbling in my pot.
I put it all into a plastic bowl and added the rye flower, stirring and mixing the dough. It was very sticky and I put some more flour in to get non sticky dough. I don't have those special hooks on my mixer so I put some flower on the board, rubbed my hands with olive oil and started to knead the dough.
The final result was quite a heavy dough. I took a piece and rolled it out like the recipe said and cut it in little pieces. I made balls and cuttings and put them in the baking form on baking paper and put the whole thing in the oven and set it to 20 minutes, maybe a bit more, because I thought the oven had to be on temp first.
I waited for the pepper nuts to bake, but suddenly I smelled this burning smell and I rushed over to take the tray out of the oven, only to discover that my first attempt to make this recipe had failed. They were all burned. Then I discovered that my oven was set on grilling and not on baking.
How to Make Pepper Nuts the Right Way
Turning the Peppernut Dough into Christmas Cookies
Well after the failing of the peppernuts, I still had a lot of dough left and I decided to make some delicious Christmas cookies. I had set the oven on the right temperature and decided to lower the temp a bit to 175 and shorten the baking time to 15 minutes.
Then I remembered I once (long time ago) had bought some iron cookie cutters on a flee market which I had never used. They were hanging at my kitchen ceiling (low beams). I took those cutters down. Surprisingly they were all and I cleaned them thoroughly, dried them and rolled out the dough rather flat with a dough roller. I started to cut out the cookies. They were looking nice I thought and as you can save these kinds of cookies for a long time, I wanted to decorate my Christmas tree with them. Christmas cookie cutters
The Peppernut Cookies Were Tasty, but a Bit Hard to Chew
The last moment I decided to lower the temp a bit more to 150 and the time to 12 minutes. The cookies came out beautifully colored and the texture seemed ok too, but that was when they still were warm. As soon as they cooled off, they got tougher and harder. I could still bite a chunk off and it softened in my mouth eventually and then it got stuck to my teeth.
Nevertheless, the taste was very good as it should've been. I could taste the anise and the pepper. I actually liked that flavor, it reminded me of old times. Nowadays the Dutch peppernuts taste just like the Dutch windmill cookies, not bad at all, but different.
Sure I know what I did wrong (at least I think I know). I didn't follow my own recipe step by step and I fiddled a bit with the ingredients. I wasn't quite accurate in the measurements. I started off on the wrong foot all along and I'm a bit embarrassed but I'm sure you will do a hell of a lot better than I.
Have You Ever Tasted Dutch Peppernuts?
© 2013 Titia Geertman