Recipe: Nutmeg-Lemon Pfeffernusse

Pfeffernüsse are not only fun to say (feh-fer-noose) but a fabulous treat to add to the holiday cookie platter.
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Translated from German pfeffernüsse means "pepper nuts," which is - aptly - a good part of what these traditional Christmas cookies consist of. We took the original and made it a bit more contemporary by adding lemon zest, dropping a few spices (although we did keep in a dash of black pepper for nostalgia's sake) and amping up the nutmeg flavor. Instead of leaning toward the gingerbread variety, these walnut-based pfeffernüsse are slightly sweet and more mellow in flavor; a lovely addition to your holiday cookie collection.

Traditionally pfeffernüsse were made at least a month ahead of time and dipped in an alcoholic beverage to soften before eating. This recipe come out the oven ready to eat, but they're even better baked ahead of time and "aged" for at least one week and up to one month. A perfect stash for those inevitable last minute hostess gifts, unexpected holiday guests or pop-up cookie exchanges.

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Nutmeg-Lemon Pfeffernusse
makes 80 1-inch cookies

For the cookies:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch kosher salt
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
zest of 1 lemon; 3/4 for dough, 1/4 for topping
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons whole milk
1 cup ground walnuts

For the glaze:
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons water
reserved lemon zest
ground nutmeg; for dusting

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add in zest. Beat in egg, vanilla and milk just to combine. Reduce the speed to low and gradually mix in the flour mixture. Fold in the ground walnuts.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll dough into small, teaspoon-sized balls. Place on the prepared baking sheet spacing them slightly apart Continue until all dough is used. Bake for 10 minutes or until the cookies are firm to the touch and light golden in color. Cool cookies on the sheet for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, water and lemon zest and whisk until smooth. Brush warm cookies with glaze and sprinkle with ground nutmeg. Allow the glaze to dry completely, about 20 minutes, then transfer cookies to an airtight container and store at least one week before serving.

Related: Hosting a Cookie Exchange: 5 Sweet & Simple Tips

(Images: Rebekah Peppler)

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