Christmas Cookies: Pfeffernusse and Peppermint Whoopie Pies

Filed under: Carolina Bed and Breakfast, Christmas in Asheville, recipes

For most of the year people avoid baking like the plague but something about the end of the year brings out the pastry chef in all of us.  Thanksgiving is all about pie.  And Christmas?  Christmas is the season of the cookie!  This is true for me too.  Most of the year we stick to four or five tried and true cookie recipes here at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast.  And it is true that there are old friends who show up every December as well, but this is also when I love to experiment.  So here to help you with your baking are two new (to me) cookie recipes.  Lovely German Pfeffernusse are a favorite of mine, filled with spices and coated with icing sugar while the classic combination of chocolate and peppermint come together in a holiday rendition of the Amish Whoopie Pie.

The Pfeffernusse recipe comes from Zingerman’s  in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Zingerman’s is one of my favorite resources to hard to find foods, sauces and condiments and the people are so friendly!  They shared this recipe with me as a part of the “Food Explorer’s Club” which I gifted myself with last year.  Pfeffernusse are one of those things which show up in boxes in the gourmet aisle at supermarkets and department stores during the holidays and they are always delicious.  Since my theory is that if they are delicious when store-bought, how much more delicious would they be home made?

Pfeffernüesse (Germany)

Pfeffernusse: Not the prettiest cookie but so good!

Pfeffernusse: Not the prettiest cookie but so good!

Recipe from

Butter (room temp) ½ cup
Brown Sugar 2 cups
Baking Soda ½ tsp.
Cream of Tarter ½ tsp.
Sea Salt ¼ tsp.
Ground Cinnamon ½ tsp.
Ground Nutmeg ½ tsp.
Black Pepper (finely ground) ½ tsp.
Ground Clove ½ tsp.
Ground Anise 1 tsp.
Eggs (room temp) 2 each
All Purpose Flour 2 ½ cups
Powdered Sugar 1 cup

Preheat the oven to 350°F 20 minutes prior to baking.  Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies
1. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, baking soda, cream of
tarter, sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, clove, and anise, until well
combined. Add the eggs and beat until the mixture is light and creamy.
2. Add the flour to the creamed mixture. Mix until the dough is well combined.
3. Using a small scoop, scoop out walnut size balls (about 1 oz or 2 tbsp) and place
on a parchment lined sheet pan.
4. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies will puff slightly and become
lightly browned. Do not over bake.
5. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Cool completely and then
toss with powdered sugar to coat completely. Shake off any excess powdered
6. Store in an airtight container.
*NOTE: The cookies will only get better as the spices mellow and meld together
**MY NOTE: This makes a big flat cookie. I am going to try refrigerating the dough for an hour and making smaller cookies to see if I can get something that more closely approximates the small round ones found in the stores.


And here is your bonus recipe for Chocolate-Peppermint Whoopie Pies. Traditionally the Whoopie Pie is a fairly large cookie, fitting for its “Am I a cake or a cookie?” confusion, but I like to make them a little smaller so they become a bite rather than a meal.  It’s up to you.  Either way the cooking time is the same.

Chocolate Peppermint Whoopie Pies

Chocolate Peppermine Whoopie Pie

Chocolate Peppermint Whoopie Pie


For the Pies

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup soured milk (1/2 tsp white vinegar in ½ cup of milk)
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup hot water
2 cups flour
½ cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream together the shortening and sugar until light. Beat in the egg then stir in the milk and vanilla.
Combine flour, chocolate and salt in a separate bowl then stir into the egg and sugar mixture.
Stir together the baking soda and hot water and add to the cookie mixture.
Drop by tablespoon onto the cookie sheets.
Bake 8 minutes or until the top springs back when touched. Cool

For the Icing

1/2 cup butter
2 cups icing sugar
2-3 tbsp milk
1 tsp peppermint extract
pinch of salt
2-3 drops red food coloring (optional)

1-2 crushed candy canes

Put all of the ingredients (except the candy canes) together in the bowl of an electric mixer and cream together at medium speed for three to five minutes until light and fluffy.

Assemble the Pies

Spread one cookie thickly with icing, making sure to reach to the edges, then top with a second cookie. Roll sides in crushed candy cane to coat. Makes about 1 dozen large cookies


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