This year for Christmas, no gløgg nor æbleskiver, I wanted to try “pebernødder” (lit. “pepper nuts”), incredibly flavourful and crispy Danish Christmas cookies. Since November, we have seen them being sold in small bags in every bakery and supermarket in Copenhagen. And two days before Christmas, I have finally found enough time to bake two nice batches.
Pebernødder are one of the oldest Christmas cookies in Denmark; they first appeared in the 1400s. At that time, they did not necessarily contain pepper, which was an expensive product but were just spiced enough to have a strong flavour.
What’s interesting is that when talking about “pebernødder” in Danish, it means little money but the opposite “en pebret pris” (lit. “a peppery price”, the equivalent to “a steep price”) means something is very expensive, because pepper was very expensive in the Middle Ages and was almost worth its weight in gold.
If we make “peberkager” (pepper cookies) all year long, we generally only make pebernødder around Christmas. We can also find them in several countries around Denmark, and especially in Germany, where they’re named “Pfeffernüssen”, a land that strongly influenced the Danish culture. The name of the pebernødder originates from the fact they were compared to nuts for their colour and size, but also because they were then baked without any sort of yeast, right after the end of the bread-baking in large baking ovens, which made them extremely hard – like nuts. Well, enough explanations, here is the recipe.
The recipe of the pebernødder
For ca. 2 batches • Preparation time: 15 min • Cooking time: 10 min
- 125 g of soft butter (I used half salted butter, half unsalted butter)
- 125 g of cane sugar
- 1/2 dl of cream
- 1/2 tsp of ginger powder
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon powder
- 1/2 tsp of white pepper (I used the Kampot pepper we brought back from Cambodia)
- 1/2 tsp of cardamom powder
- 1/2 tsp of baking soda
- 1/2 tsp of baking powder
- 250 g of wheat flour
- Put them in line on the buttered and floured baking sheet (or covered with baking paper). You can also roll the small pieces into balls and slightly squeeze them when putting them on the baking tray, to give them the traditional round shape, as I did.
- Repeat the operation with the rest of the dough.
- Bake at 190°C (374°F) for 10 min until the cookies are light brown and slightly risen.
- Let them to cool, before storing in a tin box.