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Dec 24, 2018

Pfeffernusse Cookies (gluten + dairy free)

Every year at Christmastime during my childhood, we would get together one afternoon with our extended family. My great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins I only saw twice a year or so. I love the memories I have now as an adult from having known and spent time with my great grandparents. 

They were German and I remember visiting them with my parents or with my grandma when I would stay with her for a week during summers. I remember that they spoke mostly German to each other and that it was difficult to understand them when they spoke English to us because of their strong accents. In high school, I took German and I loved the idea of being able to converse with them in their native language. Unfortunately I never learned it well enough to actually hold a conversation with anyone, and they both passed away around that time as well.

My great grandpa, Menno, used to make wind chimes, bird feeders, and other outdoor decor by recycling 2-Liter soda bottles. I was fascinated by his creations and they had a tree in their backyard just covered with them.

I always remember my great grandma, Anna, by the German food that always seemed to be around. Her Zwiebock rolls, which I wasn't a big fan of, seem to be the strongest memory I have of her, other than our yearly Christmas gifts. As a child, I remember being confused by the gifts because toys were always the gifts we looked forward to.

Now, looking back on my childhood, I love the simplicity of them. Every year, when we got together for our family Christmas gathering, before we left, we would each receive a brown paper sack. Inside would be an apple, an orange, a candy cane and Pfeffernusse cookies (also called Peppernuts).

I think of those gifts and how much love was put into making hundreds of Pfeffernusse cookies so each of us would have some to take home. Every Christmas those memories roll in and this year I decided to relive it a bit by making my own Pfeffernusse cookies, but dairy free and gluten free so we can all enjoy them. They're definitely a labor of love but they were actually fun to make and my kids loved them!

Pfeffernusse Cookies (aka Peppernuts) 

gluten, dairy and nut free

  • 1 cup vegan butter (I used Earth Balance) 
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp anise extract (or 3 tsp ground anise seed)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom (or you can use cloves)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 cups gluten free all purpose flour (I used GF Jules)

In a stand mixer, cream together the vegan butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add eggs, anise, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and salt. Mix until combined. Gradually add the flour and mix until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Chill the dough for about 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. On a silicone baking mat, roll the chilled dough out into very thin ropes, about 1/4-inch thick. Cut the rope into tiny pieces and place them on the parchment-lined baking sheets with a bit of room between each cookie. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool. Once cooled they will become crispy. Once they've completely cooled, store the cookies in an airtight container.  

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