Friday, December 24, 2010

Recipe: Gluten-Free Pfefferneuse Cookies-Christmas in a cookie

Pfeffernüsse (Pepper Nut) Cookies
Snowy globes of sweetness. Spicy notes of cinnamon, anise and cloves, echoing smooth white pepper. Rich in cardamom and honey with the tang of orange peel, Pfeffernüsse are Christmas in each crunchy bite.
My mom turned me on to Pfeffernüsse, also known as pepper nuts.
She loved any cookie from the rich baking tradition of Germany, but these were her favorite.
When the first square white cardboard box with candy cane striped cotton twine arrived in late November from Langer's bakery,  and the spicy aroma of these cookies wafted out, we knew that Christmas was on the way.

I was fortunate to grow up in Demarest, NJ, just a town away from Mr. Langer.
Working with his brick oven, Mr. Langer's bakery turned out the most amazing water rolls studded with poppy seeds.
Airy meringues were a special treat when the oven was being cooled down for cleaning.

But Christmas was a time when all the butter rich cookie recipes from the old country would be brought front and center in the long glass-fronted walnut display case.
We would have such a hard time making our choices.  Lebkuchen, springerle, sprizgeback and zimtsterve - rich with honey, sweet spices and nuts were all there. But Mom's and my favorite cookie was the snowball of pfefferneuse.

When we went gluten-free, this was one recipe that I just had to convert but I didn't have an original recipe.
So Pfeffernusse (Pepper Nut) Cookies Gluten Free Recipe began to be developed.

New recipe development for me begins with a writing exercise.
I recall all I can about the qualities of the original item: 
texture- is it fluffy or dense?, 
color (s), 
contrasting flavors, 
how it was decorated
finished, size, 
Then using these parameters for the finished product, I search for inspiration recipes.

I know, I'm a geek. Yes, food is a lab experiment for me.

The internet is a marvelous tool to bring many versions of a classic recipe to hand with ease. Then the conversion to Gluten-Free begins.  

For the Pfeffernüsse my writing exercise looked like this:

hard, compact, not greasy, good snap to the bite, crisp sugar shell enrobes medium brown dome
scented with orange and almond, anise, cinnamon, cloves, white pepper, cardamom
small- 2 bites at most
background of acid
dense but risen

My inspiration recipe was primarily this one from
But if you follow the link, you will see the drastic differences in cookie.

Most gluten-free recipes call for an all butter pastry. We have to adapt since the butter isn't held in place by a network of protein. 
It just melts into a puddle.
So I changed the rich butter to a combination of butter and palm oil shortening keeping the flavor of the butter without the falling out problem.
I've edited this recipe to use my Pixie Dust, which solved the butter drop out problem.  As long as the pixie dust is combined with the butter, before being incorporated into the rest of the recipe, the butter stays where you want it, inside the cookie.

To keep these corn free, remember to use this recipe for Baking Powder and Wholesome Sweeteners Confection sugar which uses tapioca flour instead of cornstarch.

Gluten-Free Pfeffernüsse Cookies
Recipe Type: Cookie
Author: Jean Layton
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 96
This cookie recipe draws on the traditions of Germany. The use of older honey, the kind that is almost crystallized allows the enzymes it contains to work a kind of alchemy on the product, but don't worry if you don't have it, just proceed on for a terrific taste of the old country. Don't forget to let the dough rest, preferably for a day or two, before baking. The long rest lets the sugar crystals dissolve a bit and the flours to soften.
  • 157 grams (12 Tablespoons)softened unsalted organic butter
  • 20 grams[url href="" title="Comparison of Gluten Free Flours in one simple chart"] pixie dust[/url]
  • 309 grams (1 1/2cup) organic sugar
  • 20 grams (2 tablespoons) organic molasses
  • 40 grams (1/4 cup) honey- the older crystal developing kind is best
  • 5 grams grated orange peel (approx. One orange)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 56 grams (1/2 cup) almond flour
  • 10 grams (1 tablespoon)ground cardamom
  • 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) ground white pepper
  • 2 grams (1/4 teaspoon) ground allspice
  • 3 grams (1/4 teaspoon) ground cloves
  • 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon)salt
  • 9 grams (1 1/2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
  • 8 grams (2 teaspoons)ground cinnamon
  • 142 grams (1 cup) [url href="" title="White Flour Mix"]White flour mix [/url]
  • 165 grams (1 cup) [url href="" title="Gluten-Free Flour Mix-Whole Grain"]Whole Grain Flour Mix[/url]
  • 120 grams (3/4 cup) white rice flour
  • 20 grams (4 teaspoons) baking powder
  • 10 grams (2 teaspoons) baking soda
  • 2 cups of confectioners sugar- sifted in a large shallow bowl.
  1. Combine in mixing bowl butter and pixie dust, beating slowly till the color is even. We are NOT trying to incorporate air.
  2. Beat in the sugar, molasses, honey, orange peel and eggs till just combined.
  3. Stir together almond flour, spices, flour mixes, white rice flour, baking powder and baking soda.
  4. Add to mixing bowl and beat until just combined. Do not beat till fluffy or the cookies will spread and flatten when baked. Air is not your friend in cookie dough.
  5. Place dough into container and refrigerate overnight or for at least 3 hours. If you have the time to let the batter sit for 2 days, the flavor develops well. Well chilled dough makes for cookies that don't spread.
  6. Preheat oven to 375.
  7. Make balls of dough. I use a tiny 1.5 teaspoon cookie scoop <a href=""><img border="0" src="" ></a><img src="" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />
  8. but you can just pinch off even sized balls and roll them in your hands. The yield is flexible depending on the size you choose.
  9. Place on silpat or parchment paper covered cookie sheets, making sure to leave at least 2 inches between cookies.
  10. Bake for 10 minutes.
  11. Let cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute.
  12. Remove cookies from cookie sheet and drop into bowl of sugar, turning to coat completely in sugar. Place on cooling rack to completely cool.
  13. Repeat till all cookies are cooked.
  14. If desired, you can roll them in the sugar a second time to really make them look like snowballs. The first dipping, done while the cookies are still warm, is what creates that layer of cracking sugar on the final cookie.
If you remember the original recipe, I've also updated this recipe to use my Whole Grain Flour mix and White flour mix, rather than having to mix a third mix.
Let me know in the comments your favorite holiday cookie.  Have you managed to convert it to gluten-free yet?

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