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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Monday, November 19, 2012

Grandma Anna's Pfeffernusse

This post was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog. 

When I was a child, my grandmother made pfeffernusse cookies. My younger brother liked them better than I did, but he also liked licorice - which I hated. Anise may not be quite the same as licorice, but the flavors and scents were similar enough to turn me off. And pfeffenusse were hard! No wonder the nickname was Pepper Nuts. Adults liked them with coffee but the children preferred chocolate chip cookies. 

We didn't have the recipe after Grandma Anna died so my mom tried recipes from cookbooks and the kind of pamphlets that were often passed out with ingredients bought at the store. The results were okay, but they didn't have the same texture as the adults remembered. Years went by and Anna's grandchildren grew up to have homes of their own.

One year my sister Josie hauled Grandma's old cabinet-style treadle sewing machine up from our parents' basement, wanting to clean & polish it and give it a place of honor in her home. After a stuck-shut drawer was opened, Josie discovered a cache of silk and cotton embroidery threads, along with a tattered yellow newspaper clipping with the recipe for the pfeffernusse.

Josie kept the threads but the clipping was turned over to me - by that time I loved to bake for the family and I'd also learned to enjoy the flavor of anise.My dad and uncle gave the Pepper Nuts a thumbs-up after tasting them, agreeing they tasted like Grandma's.

There was no clue on the paper to tell us where Grandma got the recipe or how old it was, although we're sure it was in use before the mid-1950's. In a few weeks I'll use this recipe again, to bake and pack and share the cookies with my far-flung family.


Heat together until blended:
1/2 cup molasses ( I use dark full-flavored)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup lard (the original recipe called for lard but I always substituted vegetable oil.)

Cool the mixture for 45 minutes. Add 1 beaten egg*.

Combine the following spices and stir into the molasses mixture:

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon powdered anise (or 1 and 1/2 teaspoons anise extract)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sift together 3 and 1/2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Mix well. Cover dough and let stand overnight at room temperature.

Roll into 1-inch balls. Bake on parchment paper at 350 degrees F for approximately 12-15 minutes. When cool, roll in powdered sugar. Store in tightly covered tins in a cool dry place for several weeks to mellow the flavor.

* Since the dough sits out overnight I prefer pasteurized eggs for this recipe.

I have a vague idea that some of the dough used to be rolled out and cut with an angel cookie cutter to be tied on the Christmas tree as an ornament. I can remember the angels hanging, but I'm not sure if it was really the pfeffernusse dough or if it was gingerbread dough. Either one should work.

This post was written by Annie in Austin for her Transplantable Rose blog.



  1. How lovely that you all discovered the recipe years later! I like anise... I'll have to try making these sometime. :-)

  2. Hi Blackswamp Kim - glad you like the idea & thanks for commenting!

  3. I love the idea of discovering this recipe after it was thought to be lost to the ages. It sounds like a good cookie.

    1. And it all happened because my sister wanted the sewing machine!

  4. What a wonderful find. I can just imagine the thrill of finding it. I treasure every single thing I find of my ancestors. I have weirdest collection. However, I have none of my grandma's recipes...and she was a wonderful baker. I wish I could find here recipe for the wonderful cake she made. And her chicken soup. I would go there after school and she would put a plate of soup in front of me and watch with delight as I devoured it. Happy days.

    1. What a great memory, Jenny! My other grandmother made a cake but left this world without passing along the recipe - you might enjoy the story of the Burnt Sugar Cake over on the Divas of the Dirt recipe blog.

      The cake is good but wow, is it sweet!


  5. What a great memory brought to life again, Annie! I read the recipe with interest and that's a time-consuming cookie to make. Most of the good ones are!

    1. These are pretty dense cookies, Lost Roses - can even stand up to dunking ;-]

  6. What memories! I remember trying that as a child and almost liking it. I'll bet I'd love it now. I may try this for the holidays.

    1. Hi Jean - I hope you have fun baking whatever you decide to make. Maybe we'll have some cool days that make one want to turn on the oven!


  7. Oh what a wonderful discovery and a wonderful story! I love a good dunking cookie.


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