Carolina Bed and Breakfast

The Kitchen Garden

Notes, recipes, and thoughts of an innkeeper

The Best Christmas Cookies

Posted on by Susan Murray

Lovely Spicy Pfefferneuse Cookies

Lovely Spicy Pfefferneuse Cookies

I love Christmas baking.  There is something about a steady stream of cookie trays going in and out of the oven that means the holidays, good friends and family,  and delicious once-a-year treats.  In addition, it means I can indulge myself in trying out new recipes while being sure there is a willing audience to taste them.

This year I was gifted with two special recipes.  One for Pfeffernuesse, a spicy German cookie covered with powdered sugar, which can be found on the shelves in some markets in December, and the other for a delicious melt-in-your-mouth shortbread.

Pfefferneusse is one of those cookies which pop-up on supermarket shelves but never seem to be made at home.  So when Zingermans, a specialty online shop, included a recipe for them in a package of holiday treats I knew I was going to make them.

It’s my theory that some things were once so good that everyone made them.  Then, when the age of convenience came along and people were able to buy them ready-made, they put up with a slightly inferior product for the convenience.  Over time people forgot how good they could taste when home-made and the product fell out of favor. I kind of felt like Pfefferneusse was going to be one of those cookies.

The first recipe which Zingerman’s sent to me was missing some crucial ingredients.  But it’s a family-run company which maintains high standards and very personal service so I called the bakery department and they sent the right one on to me!

Pfeffernüesse (Germany)


Butter (room temp)            ½ cup
Brown Sugar            2 cups
Baking Soda            ½ tsp.
Cream of Tarter            ½ tsp.
Sea Salt            ¼ tsp.
Ground Cinnamon            ½ tsp.
Ground Nutmeg            ½ tsp.
Black Pepper (finely ground)            ½ tsp.
Ground Clove            ½ tsp.
Ground Anise            1 tsp.
Eggs (room temp)            2 each
All Purpose Flour            2 ½ cups
Powdered Sugar            1 cup

Preheat the oven to 350°F 20 minutes prior to baking.Directions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, baking soda, cream of tarter, sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, clove, and anise, until well combined. Add the eggs and beat until the mixture is light and creamy.
  2. Add the flour to the creamed mixture. Mix until the dough is well combined.
  3. Using a small scoop, scoop out walnut size balls (about 1 oz or 2 tbsp) and place on a parchment lined sheet pan.
  4. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies will puff slightly and become lightly browned. Do not over bake.
  5. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.       Cool completely and then toss with powdered sugar to coat completely. Shake off any excess powdered sugar.
  6. Store in an airtight container.

*NOTE: The cookies will only get better as the spices mellow and meld together.

The shortbread recipe was sent to me by my cousin who visited the Carolina Bed & Breakfast this summer.  It is a recipe of her grandmother’s who was born in England in 1889.  My Aunt Connie makes these every Christmas and it is the first thing her grandchildren look for when they arrive for the holidays.  I knew it was going to be good when I had a hard time stopping my daughters from picking at the raw dough!

Buttery, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth, Shortbread

Buttery, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth, Shortbread

From Aunt Connie


1 cup Superfine sugar

1 cup butter

1/8 tsp salt

2 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup cake flour

Sift together salt, and both flours. Cream butter and sugar. Slowly add 2 cups of flour until it can be handled. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead in remaining ½ cup flour till dough cracks on surface. DO NOT OVERWORK. Roll ¼ inch thick and cut. Traditional shortbread cutters are rectangles with fluted edges but you can use any shape you want. Transfer to an ungreased cookie sheet with a spatula and prick 3 times with a fork. Bake at 275o until light golden brown around the edges (about 25 minutes). Remove cookies from cookie sheet with a spatula and let cool.

Note to Susan: This is, hands down, my Mom’s ‘signature’ recipe. It came from her Mom, who was born in England in 1899. The recipe takes some work to master as the dough is very tender. Here are a few of the tips I have gotten from Mom over the years: If you find it difficult to use a rolling pin you could pat pieces down with fingers to make little cookies. Chill cut cookies on cookie sheet before baking. Heat the over to 325o and turn immediately to 275o when you put cookies in the oven. Have fun. From Terry

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