Before you wonder, yes, there is pepper in these traditional Christmas cookies. Although the term Pfeffer (pepper) was used in the Middle Ages as a broad header for all exotic spices or Spezereien and the name Pfefferkuchen has stayed on to name gingerbread and its close relatives and specialities in their own right: Printen from Aachen, Lebkuchen from Nuremberg, Elisenlebkuchen and and and.
This recipe for Pfeffernüsse veeres a little from tradition in its use of the Moroccan spice mixture ras el-Hanout but I found the idea of crushed rosebuds & grains of paradise pepper which are included in mine quite intriguing. I have doubled the quantity and added the usual Lebkuchen spices along with pepper to have a real spice-laden cookie worthy of its name.
makes about 45 cookies, adapted from Brigitte 24/2012
250g (8.8 oz or 2 cups + 1 tablespoon) plain flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ras el-Hanout
1½ teaspoons Lebkuchen spice (Lebkuchengewürz)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
freshly ground white pepper (about ¼ teaspoon)
160g (5.6 oz or ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon) caster sugar
zest of ½ lemon
50g (1.8 oz) candied lemon peel (Zitronat), finely chopped
3 tablespoons milk
extra flour to roll out the dough
100g (3.5 oz or 1 cup) icing sugar or confectioners’ sugar
4 chunks of dark chocolate
Mix flour, baking powder, ras el-Hanout, Lebkuchen spice, cinnamon, pepper, sugar, lemon zest and lemon peel in a mixing bowl. Whisk the egg with the milk in another dish, add to the spiced flour and knead to a smooth dough using the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer.
Preheat your oven to 170°C (340° F) or 150°C fan oven and roll out the dough on a floured surface to a thickness of 1cm or 2/3 inch. Cut out small thick rounds with a cookie cutter (4cm or 2.5 inches diameter) and place the Pfeffernüsse on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes and let cool on a wire rack. When they are cooled down completely, make a thin glaze out of the icing sugar with water and brush the Pfeffernüsse with it. When the glaze has dried, warm the dark chocolate chunks (easy if you put them in a small plastic ziplock bag and place for a few minutes in hot water, then cut a tiny piece of the corner and use as a piping bag) and with a quick move pipe thin lines of chocolate over the cookies. Leave to dry & keep in a tin.