Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pfeffernusse cookies & Italian espresso with a special "house seasonings"

Pfeffernusse cookies

Pfeffernusse cookies are a traditional Christmas cookie from Germany and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. They are what I refer to as an “old world” cookie and you hardly ever see them anymore. Both Meakin and I are of German heritage, so these cookies are a tradition in both of our families.

Pfeffernusse cookies are covered in confectioner’s sugar and taste similar to gingerbread, but are spicy and seasoned with black pepper. In appearance pfeffernusse cookies can be confused with Mexican wedding cake cookies because both are covered in confectioner’s sugar.

I'm sure our ancestors must have made batches of these cookies, but since I’m not much of a baker, we buy our pfeffernusse cookies. However they aren’t always easy to find. Archway brands makes a very good cookie and I’ve also been able to find them at The Fresh Market. I grab several boxes as soon as I see them in December. I’ve found a couple of recipes on line at Fabulous Foods and All Recipes for those of you who are bakers and would like to add them to your cookie collection. If you have a recipe you would like to share with me, I would love to hear from you.

German Gluhwein

Pfeffernusse cookies are wonderful served with espresso or German Gluhwein. Last year I posted a recipe for German Gluhwein, taken from an old German cookbook, if you would like to make your own. It’s super simple and not too sweet.

I would like to share some secrets to making a good cup of espresso and a little “house seasoning blend” that I got from a friend’s Italian grandmother that makes the espresso taste even better. You’re probably thinking who needs a recipe for espresso? Just stay with me for a moment and you’ll see.


First of all, I use the Bialetti Moka Express espresso stovetop pot. It’s the Italian made aluminum one with the funny looking little fellow with the mustache on the pot. Bialetti is the world’s number one coffee-maker and the most copied coffee coffee-maker in the world, so don’t settle for an imitation. Best of all, it’s not expensive. The six cup version costs around $30 and sizes range from one cup to twelve. Not a bad price considering some of the electric espresso machines can run into the hundreds of dollars.

Always buy the best coffee you can find. We prefer the Italian illy brand because it is 100% sustainably grown Arabica coffee and in our own taste tests, it always wins hands down to other brands.

I mix the Illy espresso blend with a little of what I call “my house seasonings.” An excellent Italian cook shared her grandmother’s espresso seasonings with me and I want to pass it on to you. She whispered to me, "This will take the bitterness out of the espresso and no one will know your secret." This is how you do it.

Before brewing, sprinkle the coffee grounds with a little sugar (to your taste – I don’t use very much) and top with one star anise. When I don’t have a star anise, I’ve substituted a good pinch of anise seeds with excellent results. Mix every so slightly, then brew your espresso according to the manufacturer’s direction. That’s all there is to it. Very easy and so, so delicious. Great for a snowy day. Here’s our first big snowfall of the season. Winter’s starting early this year.



These are my own opinions and I was not compensated by any brand name mentioned.. 



37 comments:

  1. Great mind thing alike. I just made those cookies yesterday! Love Glühwein and stovetop coffee! Nice snow too.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. I remember back when little grocery stores in Brooklyn, NY used to sell cups of espresso prior to Starbucks. I think they must have made it similarly to your recipe because it had a slight licorice taste. Take care.

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  3. I made the Pfeffernusse cookies, last week, for a bake sale. They were really tasty. I made Martha's recipe.

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  4. Hi..I have to tell you an important think about italian espresso: illy is the best...but Bialetti is not for espresso coffe, but for moka one...so if you use Bialetti pot you have to buy Illy coffe MOKA.... I tell you this because coffe powder is different....but Illy is the best anyway...I use it for my espresso machine!!!Have a great day...as great is your post!!!Hugs, Flavia

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  5. wow never had a spiced coffee before wow you have a lot of snow in the mountains

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  6. I grew up eating pfeffernusse at my grandmother's. She wasn't German, and she didn't bake, so I bet they were purchased from a bakery. Yummy little things.

    :)
    ButterYum

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  7. I love to pop these little morsels of Heaven into my mouth! You are right on about the coffee-you have the secret down to the perfect espresso.I would love to be sitting there with you enjoying a cup right now! Happy Holidays to you and yours!

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  8. I love epresso and I use my expresso machine I bought a few months ago to make it. We also drink Illy coffee, we order ours by the case at illy.com and save a dollar a can. The shipping is free with a case.

    Those cookies sounds wonderful! I have never tried those before.
    Hugs,
    Penny

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  9. I've never heard of these hints for espresso and certainly appreciate them. I agree the Illy is the best. We occasionally find it at Costco and stock up at such a bargain price. I just purchased star anise to go in a simmering mixture so have everything needed for a good cup--or two.

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  10. These pfeffernusse cookies look lovely, i don't think i've had these before, they sure sound good to go with espresso.

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  11. Sam, your cookies look fabulous and I'd love to have one right now. My MIL used to make them every Christmas and I forgot all about them. Great with the espresso, I will be looking into that!

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  12. My gosh, i remember those cookies from (dare I say) 40 plus years ago.Fondly... no more sweets for us (bosses orders) for awhile, but going to file these for when my wife's pants fit again

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  13. There's nothing wrong with a good quality store-bought cookie. My favorite crisp ginger cookies are Biscoff and I get them at Walgreens!

    I love the sound of the touch of sugar and anise in the espresso. I sounds perfect looking out at that lovely snow cover!

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  14. How could you possibly go to Florida and miss that beautiful view out your window? I could never serve those cookies as someone might ask me what they were - but they sure look good.

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  15. The view outside your window is beautiful. Perfect weather for staying indoors, drinking espresso, and eating cookies!

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  16. I always buy my pfeffernusse - but this year i am inspired to make them. Great post, Sam. I love the seasonings to tone down the bitterness in espresso. I actually use a stovetop replica of my grandmother's espresso pot! And will be making the wine.

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  17. The view is beautiful outside there! Guess, you have to stuck in the house for quite a while. The cookies & coffee sound really good especially by this time of the year. Hope you're having a great day.
    Blessings, Kristy

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  18. Not much of a baker either! Love this post...I wish I were sitting beside that window enjoying this treat! :)

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  19. Well that's like putting Sambucca in your expresso which I used to do quite regularly.

    I recently discovered how much I like star anise and have ground up a whole bunch, adding it willy-nilly to various dishes.

    Tomorrow morning it goes in my coffee.

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  20. Sounds like a great way to make espresso!

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  21. Wonderful cookies and a warm cup of fresh coffee sound great to me.

    Nisrine

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  22. Thanks for the tips on flavoring espresso, it sounds perfect with the spiced cookies. This is a wonderful time of year to enjoy cozy times at home. That looks like some serious snow fall in your photo, it also looks beautiful.

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  23. The view outside of your window looks beautiful. I hope you have a white Christmas, that would be the best. I've not tried Pfeffernusse cookies, they look quite delicate and must be wonderful with coffee. I will have to try the star anise recipe. I've made coffee with cardamon before, this sounds like a wonderful variation.

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  24. I make something that looks similar to this, but in no way similar in ingredients. Beautiful Sam.

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  25. I'm crazy about Pfeffernusse too, Sam. Have never made them, though. My mother loved springerle. I made one mad attempt at those...and failed. Then I found a
    German bakery in Ft. Lauderdale and ever after bought Mother her favorites there.

    I've always used Illy coffee, until my daughter introduced me to Intelligentsia. Oh my!

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  26. My mom makes these every year. Or at least it looks like the same cookie, maybe different name. I love them! Happy holidays!

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  27. Seems like you guys got more snow than us, but that's to be expected! Hope you make it out to Florida soon!

    Great photos as always. I don't do coffee but Alexis loves her espresso. She has the same pot.

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  28. Much food for thought here Sam. Although that snow is beautiful, I hope you are on your way back to Florida. We are heading back to NC for the holidays so, who knows, we may be snowed in too. Merry Christmas to you and Meakin.

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  29. Thank you for this-these are one of my favorite cookies. I must confess to buying a box from Trader Joes this week and eating almost all of them.

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  30. I have the same coffee maker and agree that illy makes some darn good coffee. I love your method for spiced coffee, I've never done it that way but it sounds delicious!

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  31. I'm half German but have never had these German spice cookies. They do sound delicious.

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  32. I've eaten more than my share of pfefffernusse over the years but have never made them myself. Gluhwein, on the other hand, is another story.

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  33. I had a friend way back, who had a German background. He would talk about the Pfeffernusse his mother used to make. They always let it get hard as a rock, because it was even better for dunking! I've never known that it is seasoned with pepper. No wonder it's got that bite!

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  34. Spiced coffee is out of this world delicious and I bet it paired beautifully with the cookies. Wishing you the best this holiday!

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  35. I will try your special expresso seasoning – I had not heard of it. My husband was told by his doctor that he should drink decaf, so I have found an expresso decaf on line which is quite good and I’ll use the seasoning secret to make it better. Thanks Sam.

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  36. Thank you, Sam, for the "house seasoniongs" recommendations for the espresso. My husband loves espresso and we have a few Moka pots we've used our whole 36 years of marriage. For special occasions we add a little sambucca liquor to the brewed coffee.

    I also think Archway makes the best Pfeffernusse!

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Sam