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Pfefferneuse or New Year's
are grownup cookies; with all of that pepper and spice, they bite
back! You need to tone down the spices and probably eliminate the
pepper for kids. I was trying to recreate some cookies my sisters
made from a recipe in the newspapers years before, but could not locate
it. But after a survey of my family I knew there was molasses,
ground nuts, and lots of spices. So one New Year's Day I created
these, and they were perfect from the start--probably my best recipe ever.
In retrospect, they're not very traditional at all--softer, richer with
the ground nuts and butter, and the molasses gives them more of a
gingerbread feel. But I love these, and hated the batch I made
from a more traditional recipe--those were like citron-studded rocks.
Sheets well greased or lined with parchment or silpats
Oven 350 degrees F
Time 17-20 minutes
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
2 teaspoon lemon zest (about 2 lemons'
worth) or 1/2 t lemon oil
500 grams soft wheat
2 teaspoons cinnamon (2/3 stick, 1.5 grams)
1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom (20 pods, about 4 grams)
1 teaspoon cloves (about 12 or 15, 1.5 grams)
2 teaspoons black peppercorns (about 5 grams)
1/2 teaspoon anise seed (1 gram)
21/2 cups unbleached or whole wheat pastry flour
teaspoons cinnamon powder
1/2 teaspoon clove powder
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground anise seed
(you can freshly grind the whole spices ina coffee grinder if you have
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup whole almonds (about 100 grams, 3 1/2 ounces), ground to powder
1 1/3 cups dried pears, finely
chopped (about 8 ounces; if you cannot find pears, which unfortunately
are very tricky to find lately outside of farmer's markets, you can use
turkish apricots, which are mild enough to work here; tart california
apricots will not work as well)
About 1/2 pound powdered sugar (not all of it will end up in the cookies)
Cream the butter until soft. Beat in sugar and molasses until
smoooth. Beat in the eggs and zest or oil.
Whisk together the flour, spices, soda and almonds. Add to the
beaten mixture along with the pears. Stir gently until well
Pour some powdered sugar into a shallow dish. Dust your hands
with the sugar and shape walnut-sized balls of dough. Roll the
dough balls in powdered sugar until thickly coated. Set on the
baking sheets. If you're tempted to skip the powdered sugar step,
note that this sweetness outside is meant to balance the spiciness
Re-dust your hands with powdered sugar when the dough sticks to
them. You'll probably need to wash them several times
during the course of baking since this is a very messy process (but the
results are worth it!).
Bake the cookies until they are firm on the outside but just barely
soft inside (they will just lightly give to a gentle poke.
They will look wonderful with their white coating cracked open to
reveal brown cookie inside--very festive.
Makes 6 dozen cookies @ 75 calories:
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