Peppernuts (Pfeffernusse) are tiny teaspoon-sized Christmas cookies from my Mennonite tradition. I don’t think I’ve had a single Christmas without peppernuts, even while living abroad for many years. There are countless recipes with a myriad of flavors. My family has a famous cinnamon-scented recipe that’s delicate and addictive, which I’m sharing here for you.
According to Mennonite lore, Peppernuts were great winter cookies because they were so tiny that you could fill your pockets with them as a snack while trudging through the snow in northern Europe. We also heard stores of peppernuts being used to pacify noisy little kids during church. Regardless of their uses, peppernuts are fun, distinctive Christmas cookies that can be eaten by the handful.
To make these tiny cookies, the dough is chilled, then rolled out into snakes which are cut into teaspoon sized nuggets. The process is a little similar to rolling and cutting gnocchi, except that gnocchi are then rolled along a fork or cavatelli board to create those distinctive gnocchi grooves. It’s a fun activity for a family with Christmas music and conversation. If you’re making peppernuts alone, it can also be a meditative, relaxing activity.
1 cup butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup milk (or oatmilk)
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 1/2 cups flour
6 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
My mother’s recipe simply says, “375” as the entire peppernut cooking method, but I’ll clarify with the other steps beyond oven temp.
Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer. Add the milk and vanilla and beat to combine. Sift the dry ingredients then combine them with the wet ingredients. Mix until combined. Let the dough chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Heat your oven to 375F.
Lightly flour a cutting board. Take about a cup of the dough and roll it into a snake. Slice the snake into teaspoon-sized nuggets. Lightly roll each nugget so it is smooth. Arrange them on a baking sheet. You can fit quite a lot on a sheet but do not let them touch. They will not flatten and spread during baking. Bake at 375F for about 10-12 minutes, rotating halfway through. Use a metal spatula to scrape them off into a big bowl for serving.