Though I never tasted my great-grandmother's pfeffernusse, I've heard about them from my dad and uncles. I'll never know her exact recipe, but we have a tattered copy of the recipe she may have used. Her name printed across the top is the only clue I have towards these small, hard cookies her grandsons so fondly remember.
Last September I told you about the aprons we found at my grandma's farm. Just for fun I decided to make these cookies while wearing the blue flowered apron I like to think belonged to my great-grandma. I couldn't resist stirring them up in the blue bowl she likely used.
And when I say stir, I do mean stir. No electric mixers to cream the butter and sugar here, a bowl and wooden spoon will do the trick. The recipe is a little vague in some areas, "Flour enough so you can roll the dough like a rope." "Flour enough" ended up being just over 4 cups of flour, and that was for half a batch. It would take a trusty wooden spoon to stir in 8 cups of flour without a mixer.
Though I tried to keep things as authentic as possible, I caved and went with butter over lard as the recipe gave both options. I have no way of knowing what type of sugar my great-grandma used. I suspect she used whatever she had at the time, which is why the recipe says either white or brown. I used some of each.
recipe from my Great-Grandma Caroline
Two cups sugar: either white or brown
One cup lard or butter
Twelve tablespoonfuls cold water
One-half cup molasses
One-half cup syrup
One-half teaspoonful each of: cinnamon, cloves, allspice
One teaspoonful each of: ginger, soda, anise seed
Pinch of salt
One cup chopped nuts
Flour enough so you can roll the dough like rope; then cut in pinch pieces; roll in palm of hand and lay the little ball in pan not too close...bake in not too hot an oven
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
6 Tbsp cold water
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp anise seed
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
4 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar for rolling, optional
* Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets; set aside.
* In a large bowl combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar and butter until smooth. Stir in egg. Add water, molasses and corn syrup; stir to combine. Add baking soda, ginger, anise, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and salt, stir until incorporated. Stir in flour, 1 cup at a time, to form a dough stiff enough it can be rolled into a rope.
* Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls; roll in granulated sugar and place on prepared cookie sheets. Bake 12-15 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. Let cool on wire rack before storing in an airtight container.
Food for Thought: "Don't spend time beating on a wall hoping to transform it into a door." -Coco Chanel