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Dutch Peppernuts and Christmas Cookies

I just love to bake, cook, and try new things. It doesn't always come out the way I had in mind, but that's ok! It always tastes good.

Peppernuts and Christmas Cookies

Peppernuts and Christmas Cookies

18th Century Dutch Peppernuts Recipe

The 5th of December is the birthday of Saint Nicolas. He was the patron saint of the children. Around that time it's a tradition in the Netherlands to eat peppernuts.

The peppernuts today look quite different from those in the 17th and 18th century. Today's nuts are often made of gingerbread and have no pepper in them at all, let alone the honey, the syrup and anise.

I found this 18th century recipe in an old book.

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

1 hour

12 min

1 hour 12 min

a lot

All purpose Flour - Brown Sugar - Anise - Maple Syrup - Honey

All purpose Flour - Brown Sugar - Anise - Maple Syrup - Honey

Instant Cooking Recipes Units Conversion

In the Netherlands we use kilos and grams so it's always a bit difficult for me to know the exact measurements other countries use. I found this very helpful cooking recipes units conversion on the internet and it has always been quite helpful to me.

I will however give the measurements in grams and then you can make your own unit conversion.


  • 300 gram of rye flower
  • 25 gram of water
  • 75 gram of honey
  • 75 gram syrup (maple or any other kind)
  • 100 gram of dark brown sugar
  • 12 gram of grounded anise seeds (or powder if available)
  • 4 gram of salt
  • a pinch or two of dark pepper
  • 10 gram of baking powder


  1. Heat the honey with the syrup to about 90 degrees
  2. Add the brown sugar and stir it firmly
  3. Add the rye flower and mix it into a soft dough
  4. Add the other ingredients and mix the dough firmly. In this recipe they suggest you put oil on your hands before kneading
  5. Let the dough rest for a while
  6. Cut off a slice and roll it into a long roll of about 1,5 cm diameter
  7. Take a knife and cut the roll in little pieces. You can either let them as they are or form little balls with your hands
  8. Take a baking form and put baking paper inside. They suggest to not take a baking tray, but a form with high sides like a round cake form so the nuts won't burn at the sides too quickly.
  9. Put in the pieces of dough, leaving space between them
  10. Set the oven at 180 degrees and bake the pepper nuts in 20 minutes. Not a second longer or they will burn and get hard as a rock.
Making the dow

Making the dow

Making rolls

Making rolls

Cutting the rolls in small pieces and roll them into balls

Cutting the rolls in small pieces and roll them into balls

I Didn't Follow the Recipe and Made Some Mistakes

I must confess I'm not so good at following recipes. I started out to follow this recipe, but then I made the mistake of not following it step by step. I didn't read carefully and was too hasty. After the heating of the honey and syrup I threw in all the other ingredients, including the baking powder which resulted in a lot of bubbling in my pot.

I put it all into a plastic bowl and added the rye flower, stirring and mixing the dough. It was very sticky and I put some more flour in to get non sticky dough. I don't have those special hooks on my mixer so I put some flower on the board, rubbed my hands with olive oil and started to knead the dough.

The final result was quite a heavy dough. I took a piece and rolled it out like the recipe said and cut it in little pieces. I made balls and cuttings and put them in the baking form on baking paper and put the whole thing in the oven and set it to 20 minutes, maybe a bit more, because I thought the oven had to be on temp first.

I waited for the pepper nuts to bake, but suddenly I smelled this burning smell and I rushed over to take the tray out of the oven, only to discover that my first attempt to make this recipe had failed. They were all burned. Then I discovered that my oven was set on grilling and not on baking.

Burned Peppernuts

Burned Peppernuts

How to Make Pepper Nuts the Right Way

Turning the Peppernut Dough into Christmas Cookies

Well after the failing of the peppernuts, I still had a lot of dough left and I decided to make some delicious Christmas cookies. I had set the oven on the right temperature and decided to lower the temp a bit to 175 and shorten the baking time to 15 minutes.

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Then I remembered I once (long time ago) had bought some iron cookie cutters on a flee market which I had never used. They were hanging at my kitchen ceiling (low beams). I took those cutters down. Surprisingly they were all Christmas cookie cutters and I cleaned them thoroughly, dried them and rolled out the dough rather flat with a dough roller. I started to cut out the cookies. They were looking nice I thought and as you can save these kinds of cookies for a long time, I wanted to decorate my Christmas tree with them.

Christmas peppernut cookies

Christmas peppernut cookies

The Peppernut Cookies Were Tasty, but a Bit Hard to Chew

The last moment I decided to lower the temp a bit more to 150 and the time to 12 minutes. The cookies came out beautifully colored and the texture seemed ok too, but that was when they still were warm. As soon as they cooled off, they got tougher and harder. I could still bite a chunk off and it softened in my mouth eventually and then it got stuck to my teeth.

Nevertheless, the taste was very good as it should've been. I could taste the anise and the pepper. I actually liked that flavor, it reminded me of old times. Nowadays the Dutch peppernuts taste just like the Dutch windmill cookies, not bad at all, but different.

Sure I know what I did wrong (at least I think I know). I didn't follow my own recipe step by step and I fiddled a bit with the ingredients. I wasn't quite accurate in the measurements. I started off on the wrong foot all along and I'm a bit embarrassed but I'm sure you will do a hell of a lot better than I.

© 2013 Titia Geertman

I hope you have mercy with me. I really could use a hug right now

Titia Geertman (author) from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on November 21, 2013:

@MariaMontgomery: LOL they might look nice, but you can't eat them, you would break your teeth. The dogs love them though.

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on November 21, 2013:

I applaud you for trying again and again. The 2nd and 3rd attempts produced are beautiful cookies. They look good enough to take a bite. I have some of my mom's old cookie recipes. I need to get them out and try them. Great lens.

Monica Lobenstein from Western Wisconsin on November 19, 2013:

I really appreciate your attempts. My family is Dutch though I am 4th generation American, and we have a Pfefferneus recipe that has been passed down. I'm assuming it's the same thing. My mom has made these cookies and they're delicious bit I haven't had the courage. When she explained the recipe to me, I couldn't imagine me having any luck with them turning out. I remember these cookies being ridiculously hard and that's how they're supposed to be. Great for dunking in a hot drink like cocoa or coffee. Thanks for the reminder of these cookies. I may have to try making them this holiday season just to say I tried. :)

Elyn MacInnis from Shanghai, China on November 18, 2013:

You could have been a chemist? Great experiments! My best recipes are the ones I have made over and over again. I might try these... I bet my husband would love them. He would have even eaten your burnt ones! Nice.

RinchenChodron on November 18, 2013:

Good for you for being persistent! They look good.

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on November 18, 2013:

Your story did give me a chuckle, not at you, but with you because I've had so many cooking adventures similar to yours! Thank you for sharing this old-time recipe. I often find the tastes and textures I'm looking for in recipes that came before we had so many processed foods, don't you?

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