Inspired by Catholic traditions, these spiced chewy cookies are a mix between lebkuchen, pfeffernussen, and crinkle cookies.
Christmastime for Catholics is not only a celebration of the birth of Jesus, but also one own personal rebirth for the coming year. Catholics “are reborn into Christ and die to the old man of sin so that we might be a ‘people acceptable.’ ”
The “life cake,” lebkuchen, is a symbol of this season and carries over the meaning of receiving the consecrated host at Christmas Mass.
Lebkuchen originated in Germany in the Middle Ages. Monks would use up spices, nuts, and flour from the fall harvest. Not too long after this, a baker in Nuremberg, Germany reinvented the cookie by adding candied fruit to the mix as well.
Pffeffernussen are a type of cookie derived from lebkuchen. Pfeffernussen borrow the spicy elements from the lebkuchen, but leave out the candied fruits. They are sweetened with molasses instead of the traditional honey, and are rolled in powdered sugar after baking.
These cookies are a mix between lebkuchen, pfeffernussen, and crinkle cookies. The cookies use spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves; hazelnuts, and molasses. They’re coated in powdered sugar before baking to create a beautiful contrast on the surface of the cookie that won’t cover your hands in sugar when you’re eating them. They’re very soft and chewy and stay that way for up to a week!
Don’t skip the step that says to chill the dough. Chilling allows the dough to firm up so the cookies don’t spread too much while baking.
Prep Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Cook Time 10-12 minutes
Yield 8-10 4-inch wide cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) hazelnuts, toasted and skins removed
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Beat butter, granulated and brown sugars, egg, molasses, and vanilla on medium-high speed until well creamed, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Pulse hazelnuts in a food processor until very finely chopped.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and finely chopped hazelnuts.
Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop large mounds of dough and form into balls. Place the ball on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten each ball slightly.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
After the dough has chilled, coat each piece of dough in powdered sugar, covering completely and wiping off excess.
Return the dough to the parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing balls 2 inches apart from each other.
Bake for 10-12 minutes. The edges will be set, but the tops are barely set. Even if they’re undercooked, they will continue to cook and set after they’re removed from the oven. Allow cookies to cool completely on the baking sheet.
The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to a week.