12.15.2010

cookie monster

At last weekend's festive holiday gathering ("let's all make a bunch of christmas cookies and eat frosting and sing along to Jingle Cats and dammit, why did the gingerbread horse not come out right?"), I made a big batch of pfeffernusse. These have always been my Festive Holiday Treat. Pfeffernusse come in light and dark versions, but I much prefer the dark one- so much so that I didn't bother to get the recipe for the light version from my grandma. Nothing personal, grandma.

It seems that everyone else at the party grew up with a different expectation of pfeffernusse than I did, however. They all wondered why mine were so small (the size of half-dollars, rather than the size of Oreos), and why I didn't roll them in powdered sugar. I'd never heard of such things, but I suppose it's entirely possible that there is more than one way to make this cookie.

Foolishness! This is My Family's Way, and thus, the Right Way.

(Why no photos of the cookies? Um, because I've eaten them all already. Oops.)

Grandma's Pfeffernusse (or "peppernuts", which is a less charming word to say)

1/2 C shortening (Yes, it hurt me a bit to buy Crisco for this recipe. But if it's good enough for my grandma, it's good enough for me. Don't judge.)
2 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbls hot water
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 C flour

Cream the shortening with the sugar; add eggs and beat until all is mixed. Add the salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water and add this to the dough. Add the vanilla. Mix in the flour (you'll be using a wooden spoon by this point, most likely) in 3 or 4 additions.
The dough should be smooth, not crumbly, and have a slightly tacky feel to it.
Roll out ropes of this (with a circumference about that of one's thumb) and cut into small chunks. (About the size of a thumbnail? or about the size of one's thumb from knuckle to tip? Y'know, smallish.)
Place these on a greased cookie sheet (or on one lined with parchment paper). Bake at 350 degrees for about 6-7 minutes. Watch them closely, they get overdone quickly.

These are sort of hard little cookies- some are chewy, but most are rather crumbly. The best (and correct!) way to eat them is to float them atop the hot beverage of your choice (hot chocolate, irish coffee, whatever) and then scoop them up with a spoon. Don't let them sink!

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