German Peppernuts with Indonesian Long Pepper

image-5If you have been reading my blog for a while now, you will have noticed that I am a big fan of bold and unusual flavours and that I don’t shy away from baking with ingredients we typically associate more with savoury preparations. So it was only ever going to be a matter of time before I started playing around with all the wonderful and different types of pepper. In fact I have been playing with pepper quite a lot over the recent months as I have been developing some recipes for the Peppermongers using their incredible range of different types of pepper, including lesser known varieties like Indonesian long pepper and cubeb pepper.

I first came across the Peppermongers when I read their interview in CEREAL magazine last Christmas and it was that interview which really sparked my interest in creating sweets with pepper and kick-started what is still an incredible learning experience. Armed with Christine McFadden‘s Pepper bible and a whole plethora of different types of pepper I headed into my kitchen and started experimenting, an exciting and sometimes challenging process – while the different types of pepper not only differ in their pungency, even more so than with other ingredients there is a really fine balance between trying not to overdo it with the pepper and not being able to separately identify its presence in a dish (let’s just say I sneezed a lot in the early days of recipe testing). That being said, I am incredibly excited about the recipes I have developed over these past few months and I hope they render justice to the different types of pepper and their incredible flavour profiles – head on over to the Peppermongers’ website to see my recipes, starting with these German Peppernuts made with Indonesian long pepper.

GERMAN PEPPERNUTS
Makes ca. 30 cookies

German Peppernuts, or ‘Pfeffernüsse’, are somewhat unusual cookies – tougher than gingerbread yet not crumbly like shortbread or crisp like sugar cookies either. And although the addition of pepper to the dough is purely optional (these spiced cookies likely acquired their name at a time when most spices were simply referred to as ‘pepper’), the heat from a generous pinch of pepper is what really makes these cookies stand out, its gentle heat lingering long after the last crumbs are gone. If you can resist that long, the Peppernuts taste best after a few days or even weeks and once the flavours have fully matured.

Ingredients

For the Peppernuts
– 75g honey
– 50g light brown sugar
– ¾ tsp ground pepper (you can use any kind of pepper, Indonesian long pepper is beautifully aromatic but black telicherry or white pepper from sarawak will work equally well)
– ¼ tsp ground ginger
– ¼ tsp ground anise
– ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
– 1 egg
– 250g all purpose flour
– 1 ½ tsp baking powder
– 1 pinch of salt
– 2-3 tbsp milk

For the Glaze
– 125g icing sugar
– 2-3 tbsp water
Optional: a couple of pinches freshly ground pepper

Method

For the Peppernuts, add the honey, light brown sugar, pepper, ginger, anise and cinnamon to a small saucepan and gently heat the mixture over a low flame until the honey and the light brown sugar have melted. Stir to combine with the spices. Turn off the heat and let cool for a couple of minutes before whisking in the egg.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour with the baking powder and the pinch of salt. Form a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the honey mixture. Using a spatula or the dough hooks of an electric mixer, work the honey mixture into the flour and form a smooth dough, adding 2-3 tablespoons of milk if the dough seems dry and refuses to hold together. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and place in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Take the dough out of the fridge. Lightly oil your hands and, using tablespoon-size pieces of dough, roll the dough into small marbles, flattening them slightly between your hands before placing them on the sheet pan (they will puff up slightly in the oven), leaving ca. 2 cm of space between the cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until light brown in colour (some of the cookies may end up with a cracked top). Set aside to cool down to room temperature.

For the glaze, mix together the icing sugar with just enough water to make a thick but pourable glaze. Using a spoon or a pastrybrush cover each cookie with a thin layer of icing. If using, dust some freshly ground pepper on each cookie.

German Peppernuts with Indonesian long pepper

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