Despite the name they do not necessarily contain black pepper, they are based on a Dutch recipe for Pepernoten which in turn is based on a recipe for kruidnoten (literally, ‘spice nuts’). In Denmark, they are known as Pebernødder. In Germany, they are called Pfeffernüsse (Pimpernüsse).
Like most baked goods, there are many variations of this cookie. While most recipes call for cloves and cinnamon, some also use nutmeg or anise. A Danish recipe for pebernødder typically includes white pepper.
These cookies tend to be hard when they are first baked. They are great for dunking into coffee or hot cocoa. The cookies do soften with age.
½ cup honey
2-1/2 tablespoons +1 teaspoon molasses
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sifted dark cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of mace
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon of white pepper
1 teaspoon brandy, rum, or whiskey, optional
⅛ cup finely diced candied lemon peel
⅛ cup finely chopped hazelnuts
zest of ½ lemon
¼ pound good semisweet chocolate
Combine honey, molasses, brown sugar, and butter over a medium heat. Stir occasionally until butter melts and just begins to simmer. Remove from heat and cool 15 minutes. In large bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, mace, salt, and pepper; set aside. Add eggs and brandy to butter/honey mixture, pour into flour mixture. Stir until dough forms a ball. Add candied lemon peel, hazelnuts, and lemon zest; mix well. Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or up to 1 week. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. Pinch off small pieces of dough and roll into balls about the size of a walnut. Place on cookie sheets about 2" apart. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until done. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Pack in an air tight container and store for 1 week (up to a 1 month). Yes, indeed you wait a week prior to finishing this cookies. Melt chocolate over a double boiler. Dip cookies in the melted chocolate. Place them on wax paper to harden. May be store 2 weeks in an airtight container.