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Pfefferneuse or New Year's Cookies 1991

These 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 eggs
2 teaspoon lemon zest (about 2 lemons' worth) or 1/2 t lemon oil

Mill together:*
  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
    1 1/2 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 one available)

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 mixed.

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 inside.

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:
         26% fat        71% carbos            7% protein

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