Category Archives: German dessert

Winter Solstice and Pfeffernüsse

The winter solstice is tomorrow I wrote this article for Images, the quarterly publication produced by Boulder County Parks and Open Space. Please read because it’s pretty interesting (in my very humble opinion). I thought about copying it here but I didn’t want to lower my google ranking for duplicate content. So yeah.

Anyway Monday is Pfeffernüsse Day in many European countries. No I did not just sneeze, pfeffernüsse (also known as pepernoten in Dutch, päpanät in Plautdietsch, or peppernuts in English) are traditional German cookies. Although they are more related to Christmas (Weihnachten) these days, they were often enjoyed during winter solstice celebrations.

When I took German in high school, we would celebrate Sankt Nikolaustag on December 6th. We would put our shoes in the hallway and our teacher, Frau Singer, would fill them with sweets. Afterward we would sing Christmas carols auf Deutsch and then we would head to the home economics classroom where we would make these spicy little cookies. Fond memories.

Today I would like to share the recipe with you. It makes about 5 millions small, round, thin cookies so you might want to half the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup healthy margarine such as smart balance or earth balance (butter works too)
  • 2 eggs (vegan option: 4 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 4 tablespoons water)
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Stir together the molasses, honey and margarine in a saucepan over medium heat; cook and stir until creamy. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the eggs, anise extract, white sugar, and brown sugar. Combine the flour, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Add the molasses mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 325°F (165°C). Roll the dough into 3/4″-sized balls. Arrange on baking sheets, spacing at least 1 inch apart. Bake in preheated oven 10 to 15 minutes. Move to a rack to cool.

Molasses, honey and margarine in medium sauce pan.

While that cools to room temperature, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, spices baking soda and salt).

Then add the sugars, eggs and extract to the molasses pot.

Finally add the molasses mixture to the flour mixture and stir until combined. It’s very sticky so be ready for your arm workout for the day. Switch arms to build muscles evenly.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then roll into balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 325°F for 10 minutes.

Eat, drink and be merry!

Pictured from left to right: Sugar Cookie Cut-outs (and how to ice them), Vegan Cinnamon Sugar Cookies, Candy Cane Blossoms, and Pfeffernüsse

Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

This is a great example of older generations passing on their knowledge and experience to the younger generation. My grandma makes a delicious plum cake. Recently she picked about three million (this is an exaggeration it was more like 1 million) plums from the plum trees at my childhood church. She gave a sack and the recipe for said cake to me, my mom, and my aunt at my cousin and uncle’s birthday party.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German


Coincidentally, I needed to bring a dessert to my Rangeland Ecology Club meeting that week and I was stoked to get a chance to bring this dish.

I got out my food processor, added 1/2 cup sugar, 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon lemon peel.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

I pulsed all this in the processor, then I added 1/2 cup butter.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

I pulsed that too, and added the 1/4 cup milk and an egg.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

So I pulsed that into a soft dough, just like the recipe said. I removed this dough and pressed it into a buttered baking dish.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German


Then I washed all the plums…

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German


Cut them in half, took out the pit and pressed the cut side into the dough, cut side down. I fit as many in as possible, as the recipe tells me too.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German


All of that was perfect… but that’s the end to that. Here’s where everything went wrong…

The recipe my grandma gave me says 

“Top with:
1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon”

Do you see why I was confused? Does this mean 1 cup sugar? Did she write that twice by accident? I decided that the second 1/2 cup sugar was mistakenly added twice. (I was wrong, as you will see).

So I went along, mixed together the 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 sup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. 

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

And I sprinkled it over the plums in the baking pan. I remember thinking to myself, this looks very dry. I had experience once with a cobbler in which the topping didn’t mix well enough with the butter so I had a floury substance left on the top. Gross! But I figured the plums were juicy so they must contribute the liquid that moistens the topping. Again how wrong I was.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

Hahaha! I can only laugh at myself at this point. I stuck the whole thing in the oven, (which was pre-heated to 375), and set the timer for 45 minutes (anxiously waiting for the brown, bubbly and juicy dessert the recipe promised. 


It was not brown, it was still white. Bubbly and juicy were covered. I thought at this point something is wrong. So I sprinkled some water over the still dry flour parts (I have no idea what drove me to do this). I ended up with a gel type top over a pastry base. 

I took it to the Range Club meeting (I cannot believe I served this to the general public) and though it looked gross (not as gross as this picture shows, but still gross), Range Club people are a nice group and they ate it. The whole thing was gone by the end of the meeting. I managed to get a small piece and it actually had a quite good flavor. So now that I’ve talked it up a bit I will show you a picture of it. Please don’t laugh…

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German


Oh gosh, it looks worse every time I look at it. If I didn’t know what this was I probably would not have eaten it. Like I said, Range Club people are a nice group.

So now I will tell you what I did wrong, (some of you probably already know).

I told you my grandma gave the recipe and a bag of plums to my mom as well. I was visiting her this weekend while my dad was out of town. She made the plum cake too. I was watching her make it to try to figure out my mistake. Right before she put it in the oven I said to her, “mine didn’t look like that.”

She turned to me and said, “Oh, did you see what the recipe said? There’s a typo.”

I said, “Ya I saw that, but I just ignored the second sugar.”

She laughed a little, “It’s a standard strudel recipe, one of the sugars was supposed to say butter.”

So it was BUTTER! Of course, I even thought of that while I was thoroughly messing up my plum cake. Here’s what it was supposed to look like.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

A thing of beauty! My mother is a kitchen wizard. But there you have it: my grandma and my mom will never stop passing down their wisdom and helping me grow in my baking journey.

Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pflaumenkuchen Means Plum Cake in German

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Tell me about you baking mishaps, so I don’t feel like I’m the only one. 🙂