Last year, on the old version of my unofficial blog (which I don’t want to link to right now because that old blog is just full of spam), I wrote about making my Grandma Krause’s Peffer Nuts cookies. Everyone has their thing at Christmas, and for me, these cookies/things are it. As I wrote last year, “Not really like the traditional German cookie Pfeffernusse, Grandma Krause’s Pepper Nuts are hard little nubbins of cookies that resemble little nuts, or, as a friend of mine recently put it, dog food. They have a pleasant crunchiness that tastes very similar to a gingerbread cookie, though not quite as strong, and, as the recipe makes clear, not ginger but anise.”
I made them last year, and I made them again yesterday, but this time, I had the help of a standing mixer. My lord, what a difference. It’s still quite a project because this recipe makes “a pail full,” as my grandma put it. There’s a lot of rolling out of the dough, and it just takes a long time to bake all of these things. But the trusty new KitchenAid mixer made getting the dough together not much more work than dumping the ingredients into the machine and turning it on. Sweet.
Anyway, here’s the recipe again, slightly altered based on how I did it this year:
1 cup dark karo syrup
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup butter, softened (or margarine or crisco or, in the old days, lard)
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup hot water
2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp anise oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
7 cups (or so) flour
1.In your trusty KitchenAid standing mixer mix together the syrup, molasses, butter, sugar and hot water until well combined. If you lack a standing mixer, you can do this with a large bowl and a hand mixer.
2. Add everything else but the flour and continue mixing until combined.
3. Start adding the flour, about a cup at a time, mixing each time until the flour is well incorporated. If you have a trusty KitchenAid standing mixer, lucky you! You can keep mixing this until all seven cups of flour are combined. I shifted from the regular mixing paddle to the bread hook attachment after the fifth cup of flour.
If you don’t have a standing mixer (unlucky you!), you’ll probably have to give up on the hand mixer after the fourth or fifth cup of flour and knead the rest of the flour in as you might with the making of bread or pizza dough.
Either way, you may have to add a little more or a little less flour to get a dough that is moist but not sticky.
4. Take about a handful of the finished dough and roll it out on a lightly floured surface in long snakes that are about the width of your pinky. Lay these out on a cookie sheet. You can create different layers of the dough snakes by separating them with parchment paper or plastic sheeting.
5. Chill these dough snakes. Grandma Krause’s recipe said to chill “overnight or for at least a couple of hours,” but I stuck the dough snakes in the freezer for about a half-hour or so and that turned out fine.
6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take each snake and cut them into tiny bite-sized pieces of dough. Put the little dough pieces onto a cookie sheet, being sure to spread them out so they don’t touch either. The cookies will expand slightly in size.
7. Bake about 9 minutes or until golden brown. Cool them on a clean counter or a clean cookie sheet and store them in a sealed container.
One more thing that I learned last year: initially, the peffer nuts will be soft. But if you let them sit for a few days (covered, of course), they will get a bit stale and crunchy, which is the way that I actually prefer them.