Kandy Spiced Pfeffernüsse

Makes about 36 cookies.

Spiced cookies are holiday favorites in Northern Europe. This recipe is a riff on traditional German cookies called Pfeffernüsse (‘pepper nuts’). In our version, Kandy Spice takes center stage and a lemony glaze plays a bright, supporting role. We suggest making two batches to enjoy and share throughout the holiday season — pfeffernüsse keep for a long time at room temperature.

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
¾ cup (lightly packed) brown sugar
5 teaspoons Kandy Spice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon (heaping) fine sea salt
1 egg
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup molasses
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 batch lemon glaze (recipe follows)
Black pepper, freshly ground, for sprinkling

 Put the butter, sugar, Kandy Spice, cloves, and salt into a large bowl (or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment). Beat until fully combined, smooth, and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined (the mixture will look curdled). Add the molasses and beat to combine. 

In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda with two teaspoons of hot water, then beat it into the butter mixture. Add the flour and stir just until it’s fully incorporated, making a stiff dough. Transfer the dough to a smaller bowl, cover tightly, and chill for at least two hours or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

Scoop the dough out of the bowl onto a cutting board. Using a knife or bench knife, cut off a ¾-inch thick slice of dough, then cut the slice into 1-inch strips and the strips into 1-inch chunks (each will weigh about half an ounce). Roll each chunk into a ball between your palms. Set the balls on one of the prepared cookie sheets, about 1½ inches apart. Repeat until all the dough has been rolled into balls.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the tops are lightly cracked and the bottoms are lightly golden. Let the cookies cool and firm up on the baking sheet before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. Make the glaze (recipe below).

Set the rack over a cookie sheet or piece of waxed paper. Drizzle glaze over the cookies (or dip the tops into the glaze). Sprinkle black pepper over the glaze immediately. Leave the cookies on the rack until the glaze is dry to the touch, about 1 hour. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Lemony Glaze:

Crack an egg, separate the whites into a bowl, and whisk them until frothy (save the yolk for another use).

Put 1½ cups powdered sugar into a medium mixing bowl. Add the zest of one lemon and 3 tablespoons of its juice. Add two tablespoons water, 2 teaspoons egg white, and a small pinch of salt. Whisk, slowly to combine, then vigorously to smooth.

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