* Pepper Nuts and Christmas Cookies the Old Dutch Way
Recipe for the 18th Century Original Dutch Pepper Nuts
In my country (The Netherlands) Pepper Nuts (Pepernoten) are unrelentingly bonded with the Saint Nicolas feast, which is officially celebrated on December 5, the birthday of Saint Nicolas, the patron saint of the children.
Today's pepper nuts 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 which I would gladly share with you.
Copyright text and photos, if not mentioned otherwise: Titia Geertman
Recipe for Pepper Nuts and Christmas Cookies
The recipe below is the original recipe from the 18th century. The point of these delicious treats is to get a cookie (or nut) that is rather tough and a bit sticky to your teeth.
Dutch Pepper Nuts Ingredients
- Prep time: 1 hour
- Cook time: 12 min
- Ready in: 1 hour 12 min
- Yields: a lot
- 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.
Step by Step in making Dutch Pepper NutsClick thumbnail to view full-size
My First Attempt in baking these cookies: THEY BURNED!
How to bake the Perfect Cookie - Learn how to bake cookies and follow recipes
I should have better read this book first I guess. I'm a lousy recipe follower. Halfway I think i know and go my own way, very often resulting in nothing delicious or even edible. If you're like me, I strongly recommend you start with this book first.
I am a lousy Cookie Baker
As I said, I'm an inexperienced cookie baker. I started out to follow the recipe, but then I think I made the mistake of not following the step by step. 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 sissing and bubbling in my pot. (First mistake)
I put it all into a plastic bowl and added the rey flower, stirring and mixing the dough. It was very sticky and I put some more flour in to get a 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 a quite 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. (Second mistake).
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 my oven was set on grilling and not on baking (Third mistake).
My Second Attempt: Christmas Cookies
I found these lovely Christmas Cookie Cutters
Well after the first failed attempt, I still had enough dough left and started another round of baking cookies. I had set the oven right and I decided to lower the temp a bit to 175 and shorten the time a bit to 15 minutes.
Then I remembered I once (long time ago) had bought some iron cookie cutters on a flee market and had never used them since as, like I said, I hardly ever bake cookies. They were hanging at my kitchen ceiling (low beams), so I took those down. Surprisingly they were all kind of Christmas related Cookie Cutters and I washed them thoroughly, dried them and rolled out the dough with a dough roller rather flat. I started to cut out the cookies. They were looking rather nice I thought and as you can save these kind of cookies for a long time, I wanted to hang them in my Christmas tree.
So I put those in the baking form and set the oven at 175 degrees and 15 minutes and crossed my fingers in waiting the results. I can tell you the results: they looked a lot better than the first lot, but still they had not that soft sticky texture they ought to have. They became rather hard to bite when they cooled off. They looked nice, but were not very well edible, or you must have the teeth and jaw of a dog. I bet my dogs will love them.
So the second attempt failed too, alas.
My Third and Final Attempt to bake some Pepper Nut Chrismas Cookies
They're getting better, but still not good enough to serve them
My dogs like them though, they like them very much, but I can't say I'm a very happy cookie baker. Boy, did I mess up my dug up 18th century Dutch Pepper Nuts Recipe. Not a good start is it and not at all a good guidance to you. I'll bet you will do a whole lot better than I did.
Third round of baking cookies I lowered the temp to 150 and the time to about 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 had cooled off, they got tougher and harder. You can still bite a chunck off, if you try and it will get softer in your mouth eventually and then it will stick to your teeth. Nevertheless, the taste was very good as it should be. I could taste the anise and the pepper. They tasted quite different than the so called Pepper Nuts of today. I liked that flavour, it reminded me of old times. Nowadays the Dutch Pepper Nuts taste just like the Dutch Windmill Cookies, not bad at all, but different from what they should taste like.
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 acurate in the measurements. I started off on the wrong foot all along and I'll say it for the third time: I'm a lousy cookie baker.
Maybe you're better off with these Gingerbread Christmas Decorations anyway
If you're a lousy cookie baker too, then maybe you're better off buying some of these lovely Gingerbread Christmas Decorations for your Christmas Tree.