Friday, January 18, 2013

Flashback Friday: Pfeffernusse

Flashback Friday: Revisiting a recipe from long ago

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.

I was a little stumped on the syrup as well.  Maple syrup? Corn syrup? A homemade syrup?  Maple syrup seemed like it would be too expensive to put in cookies, but did they even have corn syrup back then?  After a little research I found that corn syrup was quite available in that era.  I used light corn syrup, but wish I'd used dark instead.

"Bake in not too hot an oven" became 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.  My dad remembers them being hard cookies, thus the lengthy bake time for such a small cookie.  He also said her cookies didn't have nuts but were rolled in sugar, so I made those changes as well.  Sweet and mildly spiced these cookies are meant to fall more on the dry and hard side.  I'm still not convinced this was the recipe she used, but it was fun to try, apron and all.

recipe from my Great-Grandma Caroline

Two cups sugar: either white or brown
One cup lard or butter
2 eggs
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
pinch salt
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 

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