There is a recipe that is near and dear to my family’s heart and taste buds. A beautiful, delicious, tiny, crunchy cookie, that is a total pain in the butt to make!
Peppernuts sometimes called Pfeffernusse are – just like their name – spicy, hard cookies, the size of a hickory nut. Popular with Sackschewsky’s during the holidays and boardgames and…well anytime…although, I suspect my grandma always made them in the winter when the humidity is low and froze them. I like to think my immigrant ancestors brought this recipe with them, but to be honest I don’t know where it originated. However, whether brought by my polish great grandmother or perfected by my Nebraskan ancestors this cookie will forever remind me of home and family and of being a Sackschewsky.
Here are my top 3 reasons the most annoying cookie to make tastes so good.
They remind me of the past – especially my Grandma – My grandma would let me help put the red hots on each cookie, a good job for small hands. Sitting on her lap while she played Pinochle, she would let me eat the red hots leaving behind the spice cookie that I was not as fond of as a child. She didn’t seem to mind, she would grab a naked cookie, set it on her spoon and dunk it into her instant Folgers coffee, she would let it set there. After her turn was played, she would slurp up the cookie with a swig of coffee. The crunchy cookie was then softer and gentler on her older teeth. She would smile pat me on the leg and pull another cookie from a plastic bag and hand it to me to start the process over. This is a nice memory from the past.
They allow me to indulge in the present – I love the wide eyes of my extended family upon first sight and the delightful eyeroll as they crunch their way through a handful! I love knowing the best gift I can bring is this labor of love. With only 2 days, 25 annoying steps, several hours of tedious work touching each cookie four times beginning to end, I can speak my families love language. All kidding aside I love the stories my family tells while eating them. Something about the taste always congers up conversations and past stories get easier to tell, the cookies are a catalyst. These stories in the present fill in gaps about my childhood, family politics, and so much more.
They make me look to the future as we create family traditions – My kids are now the tiny fingers thoughtfully placing each red hot. There is an contentment when they run to me and ask for another taste of dough. This will be a flavor of their childhood. In the future, I hope this flavor evokes happy feelings and stories about me. Someday when I’m gone I hope this cookie congers nostalgia and love? For the time being I love sharing the dough, giving dollops of frosting on little fingers and carefully placing red hots on the most annoying cookies to make together.
Grandma’s Peppernut Recipe
In the last year that grandma lived on the family farm I made plans with her, I wanted to make these classic cookies together. When I arrived, she was happily pulling out the last pan. In my shock I said “You’ve already started?” Puzzled she said, “Well of course! I wanted to be ready to add the red hots when you got here.” After some pleasantries I convinced my grandma to make another batch from scratch. This is our family’s recipe and my gentrified approach on it from lots of trial and error. The final results are family approved.
- The only moisture in the cookie is the eggs, so depending on the size of your eggs this could change the amount of flour required. Grandmas recipe calls for 3 cups, however I always start with two cups sifting in the other ingredients. Then slowly adding additional flour until the dough is dry and barely stick together. If your dough gets too dry add a tablespoon of water to bring the dough back together.
- These cookies are small, make sure to keep the dough balls small. The recipe actually makes 27 dozen cookies.
- The frosting requires food grade glycerin, this is hard to find order it online. Don’t be shy on the powdered sugar, add more than the pound the recipe calls for. When done right this frosting will not crumble it will be the cement that holds the red hot in place.