man, did the smell of these cookies take me back to grandma’s kitchen! she always made pfeffernusse for christmas and i got to help roll the cookies into balls. i made some of these last year but using a more modern version of the recipe where they’re ready to eat right away. traditional pfeffernusse are made around thanksgiving and then stored in a pillowcase until christmas. the cookies are soft right when they come out of the oven, but then harden – and over time, become soft again. time also allows the flavors to develop.
this is definitely a cookie that i appreciate more with age; while i loved helping my grandma make them, i didn’t actually like them as a kid. they are a spice cookie with fairly complex flavors, and my palate was more appreciative of grandma’s homemade peanut butter cups!
my mom wasn’t sure if she had grandma’s recipe, so i found a traditional german pfeffernusse recipe online that is basically the same. the black pepper and anise extract are what really makes these smell and taste like the legit pfeffernusse grandma used to make. i couldn’t find cardamom at the store, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. my process is slightly different than grandma’s, as i’m storing them in ziploc bags to age rather than a pillowcase. 🙂 as i was making these, i wished i would have cooked and baked more with my grandma when i was younger. but, it’s nice to know that i’m keeping her spirit alive when i make her recipes.