Pfeffernüsse: Victory Sweets


My mother called the other day, saying she’d been thinking it was time for a change.

Time, specifically, to take down the massive German flag that’s been hanging in my girlhood bedroom in Singapore since the 1990 World Cup. (And the discovery of the wonder that is Jurgen Klinsmann.)

There were protestations, of course — the Germans were doing well in this year’s World Cup. They might win it all again! Why jinx things by folding up my precious flag?

That point, of course, is moot right now. After getting trounced by the Spanish earlier this week, the Germans take to the field today — not to fight for the World Cup. Instead, third place is theirs — if they’re lucky.

Now, when I’m stressed or depressed, I tend to storm the kitchen. So, what to make for this occasion?

“Time to write about some octopus recipes!” my friend Kevin suggested. (Given that I don’t sanction the rallying cry to grill Paul the Psychic Octopus, who predicted, to his German aquarium’s dismay, that Spain would knock Germany out of the semi-finals, I decided to ignore this.)

Something more humane, perhaps. Cookies, for example, seemed harmless enough.

And Martha Stewart had just the recipe …

Pfeffernüsse, a small, round cookie that means “pepper nuts” in German because it’s typically made with ground pepper and nuts, are traditionally made in Germany around Christmas. The Dutch and Danish make it around the holidays, too — the Danish version (pebernødder) varies a little, calling for white instead of black pepper.

While almonds or walnuts are typically used in pfeffernüsse — with some variations calling for pecans, cardamom or ginger — Martha’s recipe is more basic. It simply calls for a mix of spices — ground pepper, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves — which you whisk together with flour and baking soda.


And the recipe is super easy — you beat together butter, brown sugar, egg, vanilla and molasses, mix in the dry ingredients, and before you know it, you have delicious-smelling little brown nubbins, artfully arranged. (Which Mike promptly dubbed “Cookie-henge.”)


For a final touch, you toss the nubbins in confectioner’s sugar …


… and they’re ready to serve.

The cookie is a little cakey, dense and loaded with spices — perfect with a hot cup of Ceylon tea.

We’ll be setting those out here today in mein haus, as the Germans battle Uruguay for third place in the World Cup. And as delicious as they are, I know they’ll be even better paired with the sweet victory of the Germans today.


Martha Stewart’s Pfeffernüsse Recipe

(First printed in Martha Stewart’s Holiday Baking 2002)


  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment
    paper. Place the confectioners’ sugar in a brown paper bag.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, pepper, cinnamon, allspice,
    nutmeg, cloves, and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. Place butter, brown sugar, and molasses in the bowl of an electric
    mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat 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 dough in tablespoon
    amounts; roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. Arrange balls 1 1/2 inches apart on
    prepared baking sheets. (Dough can be frozen at this point, covered
    tightly with plastic wrap, up to 1 month.)
  4. Bake until cookies are golden and firm to the touch with slight
    cracking, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. 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. Store in an airtight container.


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3 thoughts on “Pfeffernüsse: Victory Sweets

  1. My mother’s secret for the best way to finish these off — put the “nuggets” into bowls of confectioner’s sugar (yes, bowls, large ones, with about 8-10 cookies per bowl) WHILE they are still hot. Gently shake each bowl until the cookies are buried. Let the cookies cool in the sugar then remove with a slotted spoon (gently again) to a cooling rack. Perfect, fluffy, white morsels, not yellowed as we often see them.
    This method allows the sugar to melt against the surface of the hot cookie and then the fluffy white sugar will cling to this.

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