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Pepper Nuts and Christmas Cookies the Old Dutch Way

Updated on November 18, 2017
Titia profile image

Titia has a broad interest in photography, poetry, family, art, dogs, cats, insects, wildlife, history, war, camping, writing, environment.

Peppernuts and Christmas Cookies
Peppernuts and Christmas Cookies | Source

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.

All purpose Flour - Brown Sugar - Anise - Maple Syrup - Honey
All purpose Flour - Brown Sugar - Anise - Maple Syrup - Honey
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


  1. Heat the honey with the syrup to about 90 degrees
  2. Add the brown sugar and stir it firmly
  3. Add the rye flower and mix it into a soft dough
  4. Add the other ingredients and mix the dough firmly. In this recipe they suggest you put oil on your hands before kneading
  5. Let the dough rest for a while
  6. Cut off a slice and roll it into a long roll of about 1,5 cm diameter
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. Put in the pieces of dough, leaving space between them
  10. 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 Nuts

Making the dow
Making the dow | Source
Making rolls
Making rolls | Source
Cutting the rolls in small pieces and roll them into balls
Cutting the rolls in small pieces and roll them into balls | Source

I Made Some Mistakes

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 bubbling in my pot. (First mistake)

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 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 Pepper Nuts Burned!!

burned cookies
burned cookies | Source

How to Make Pepper Nuts the Right Way

Christmas Cookies

I found these lovely Christmas Cookie Cutters

Well after the failing of the pepper nuts, 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 to 15 minutes.

Then I remembered I once (long time ago) had bought some iron cookie cutters on a flee market and I had never used them since. 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 Christmas cookie cutters 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 hang them in my Christmas tree.

Christmas pepper nut cookies
Christmas pepper nut cookies | Source

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 chunk 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 flavor, 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 accurate 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.

Have You Ever Tasted These Dutch Pepper Nuts?

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Cast your vote for Pepper nuts and Christmas Cookies

© 2013 Titia Geertman

I hope you have mercy with me and won't laugh too hard on my three attempts

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    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 4 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @MariaMontgomery: LOL they might look nice, but you can't eat them, you would break your teeth. The dogs love them though.

    • MariaMontgomery profile image

      MariaMontgomery 4 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      I applaud you for trying again and again. The 2nd and 3rd attempts produced are beautiful cookies. They look good enough to take a bite. I have some of my mom's old cookie recipes. I need to get them out and try them. Great lens.

    • AcornOakForest profile image

      Monica Lobenstein 4 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      I really appreciate your attempts. My family is Dutch though I am 4th generation American, and we have a Pfefferneus recipe that has been passed down. I'm assuming it's the same thing. My mom has made these cookies and they're delicious bit I haven't had the courage. When she explained the recipe to me, I couldn't imagine me having any luck with them turning out. I remember these cookies being ridiculously hard and that's how they're supposed to be. Great for dunking in a hot drink like cocoa or coffee. Thanks for the reminder of these cookies. I may have to try making them this holiday season just to say I tried. :)

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 4 years ago from Shanghai, China

      You could have been a chemist? Great experiments! My best recipes are the ones I have made over and over again. I might try these... I bet my husband would love them. He would have even eaten your burnt ones! Nice.

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 4 years ago

      Good for you for being persistent! They look good.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Your story did give me a chuckle, not at you, but with you because I've had so many cooking adventures similar to yours! Thank you for sharing this old-time recipe. I often find the tastes and textures I'm looking for in recipes that came before we had so many processed foods, don't you?