Recipe: Peppernotter -- Scandinavian Christmas cookies

by Julie Snyder

Peppernotter cookiesScandinavian families traditionally bake a lot around the holidays. It could be the cold, dark days need warmed up with cookies and coffee or it might be a carryover from early centuries when the number of different kinds of cookies reflected a family's wealth.

I didn't think we were rolling in riches, but I did know our holiday traditions gave a special gift. Baking with mom -- it was the substance of holiday memories. She said that these cookies were made with butter and love.

Now, I make them with my kids. It seems each bite brings a picture of Christmas past! Bake up a batch of Peppernotter and start making those special memories with your family.

Peppernotter cookies

Prep time: 20 minutes | Total time: 80 minutes | Yield: 60 cookies

Ingredients

• 1 cup butter
• 1 1/3 cups sugar
• 1/3 cup sour cream
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ginger
• 1 egg
• 4 cups flour
• 2/3 cups almonds, finely chopped (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and baking powder. Add to the creamed mixture. Beat in the egg.

Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place about 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet..

For crispy cookies, press the tops with a fork. Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. For soft cookies, do not press down the tops. Bake about 9 minutes. Remove immediately to a cooling rack.

Cook's note

Peppernotter, pepper nuts, are among the oldest Christmas cookie in Scandinavia and Europe. They date back to medieval times when spices were used exclusively for holiday baking.

Recipes for Scandinavian Christmas cookies have been handed down from generation to generation, often orally. They might vary between families and location, but timeless favorites exist, even overlapping national borders.

Our family made a glaze of 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons water and drizzled a small swirl on each cookie while it was still warm.

Does your family have a traditional holiday cookie recipe?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.