Peppernuts are the perfect Christmas cookie to make with children as they are very easy and the shaping works very well with small grabby hands. I know one of my friends had her two year old “help” when making a batch a few years ago.
The cookies are probably one of the most commonly made type of Danish Christmas cookies, because they are so easy and because the ones you buy tend to be really borring. I have this recipe from my mother, but I don’t know where she has it from – it could be from her family or from a magazine.
Why are they called Peppernuts you ask? In danish pepper was the catch all name for Asian spices, so it really just means spice-nuts. And the nuts part is defiantly just referring to the shape. We think they date back to the late medieval time/early renaissance. “Brunkager” dates back just as far.
Both pebernødder and brunkager are among the few foods we still eat that dates back to the renaissance. Here is one of the recipes for pebernødder from 1731. We do not quite make them like this today, but it is actually pretty close. The spices changed a little and we added a raising agent – but otherwise it is the same cookie. Read more about the history of pebbernødder @madamsif.dk where you can find an adapted version of the cookies that will work in the modern kitchen.
“Tag et pund Pudder-Sucker, et pund fint Hvedemeel, fem Eg, et Lod Cardemomme, et lod Caneel og Muskatteblomme tilsammen, et half Lod Aniis, lidet Peber, tre Lod Suckat, to Lod Citronskaller og mæng alt dette tilsammen og bag det.”
– En Høy-Fornemme Madames Kaagebog, 1731
Take one pound of brown sugar, one pound of wheat flour, five eggs, a weight (14,6 gram) of cinnamon, a weight of mace, half a weight of anise, a bit of pepper, three weights of sugar, two weights of grated lemon zest and mix it all together and bake it.
More about pebernødder can be found here, along with more recipes.