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Peppercorns. Peppernuts. Pfeffernusse!

October 17, 2015


Someone mentioned to me the other day that there were less than 75 sleeps until Christmas! (There’s always one in a crowd!) Indeed, I have just started preparing for my primal Christmas classes, and like every other year, it seems too early to be planning.

My family knows when Christmas is coming because I buy Sterns pfefferusse cookies for them. They are practically the only packaged biscuit that I buy all year. They are soft and gingery and have a crisp titanium white* sugar crust. They are a traditional holiday treat in Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands and are also known as pepernoten, pfeffernüsse or peppernuts. Sometimes they are dusted in sugar, often they are coated in chocolate.

While the exact origin of the biscuit is uncertain,  Dutch tradition links them to the feast of Sinterklaas, celebrated in early December, when children receive gifts from St. Nicholas. In Germany, the pfeffernüsse is more closely associated with Christmas and has been part of European yuletide celebrations since the 1850s.

The popularity of pfeffernüsse has spawned many different recipes although all contain the distinctive aromatic spices including cinnamon, cloves, pepper and anise. Usually molasses and honey are also used to sweeten the biscuits.

It’s the pepper in them that interests me. I love a good gingernut, especially when the ginger is hot and peppery – and using pepper seems like a natural progression.

In this recipe I have used pink peppercorns as opposed to cracked black peppercorns. They have a much more fragrant but softer flavour than black. You can buy them at the supermarket, but you may very well have a peppertree in your backyard!

The pink peppercorn is a dried berry of the shrub Schinus molle, commonly known as the Peruvian peppertree. Although native to Northern South America and the Andean deserts, it grows rampant in much of Australia, particularly in South Australia, our driest state.

Although a true peppercorn is the dried fruit of a plant from the genus Piper, pink peppercorns came to be called such because they resemble peppercorns, and because they also have a peppery flavour. They are not members of the pepper family and in fact are related to cashews and the cashew family.

Ironically, I have made this recipe nut-free and egg-free, so if you can’t eat cashews, use a little cracked black pepper instead. You can actually bung all of the ingredients into your TM (or food-processor) at once, which will make a biscuit with a lovely grainy texture. I usually do it this way. For for the sake of tradition, I have finely ground the seeds first for a smoother biscuit. This is my version of a nut-free, sugar-free, egg-free, possibly dairy-free pfeffernusse!! Enjoy!

1 knob fresh ginger

100g sunflower seeds

60g hemp seeds

70g tapioca flour

¼ teas ground cloves

½ teas dried pink peppercorns (or ¼ teas black pepper, or a few drops of black pepper oil)

1 teas cinnamon

1 tab ginger powder

big pinch salt

40g dried figs or dates

30g honey (or a tab marmalade would be good too)

30g coconut oil

50g butter (or coconut oil)

1 teas bicarb soda

stevia to taste (optional)

Mince the ginger on SP 9 for 10 seconds. Add the seeds and flour and mill together on SP 9 for 10 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend on SP 6 for 15 – 20 seconds until it comes together in a soft mix. Roll into tablespoon size balls and flatten slightly on a lined tray. Bake in a 160°C oven for 15 minutes – don’t overcook as you want them to be soft, not crunchy.

Dust in icing sugar or dip in melted chocolate. These biscuits actually improve with age so make a batch and hide them away in the bottom of the fridge for a while!

If you are in Brisbane and interested in my Christmas classes contact me for details.

* Sterns Pfeffernusse actually do contain titanium dioxide along with wheat flour, sugar, glucose and fructose syrup, spices, potato starch, ammonium caramel, ammonium hydrogen carbonate, sodium hydrogen carbonate, gelatin, egg powder, citric acid and salt.


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