Pfeffernesse (Tiny Mennonite Christmas Cookies)




Growing up at Christmas time we had quite a number of traditional Mennonite cookies and Pfeffernesse was one of them!  These “pepper nuts” (which is the direct translation) are just that – hard little nut sized cookies which pepper as one of the flavours!  These spice cookies go very well when you eat them with tea but be warned….they are quite addictive.

There are many different recipes out there for pfeffernesse.  This particular one I adapted from Mennonite Girls Can Cook recipe book and used a gluten free flour blend instead of wheat flour.  They taste just as great 🙂 Make sure that you have all the spices on hand as they really contribute the characteristic taste to the cookies, especially the ground anise seed.  I’ve increased the amount of the spices from the original recipe as I like them to pack a punch.

The gluten free flour that I used was equal parts brown rice flour, white rice flour, sorghum flour and tapioca starch with some xanthan gum added.  I made a giant batch (make sure to mix it really well with a whisk and store in a 5 L jar or container)

  • 1 Bag (24 oz or 4.25 Cups) Brown Rice Flour
  • 1 Bag (24 oz or 4.25 Cups) White Rice Flour
  • 1 Bag (24 oz or 4.25 Cups) Sorghum Flour
  • 1 Bag (20 oz or 4.5 Cups) Tapioca Flour (aka Tapioca Starch)
  • 2½ TBSP (0.8 oz) Xanthan gum


Ingredients: Can easily be halved but be warned, they do disappear quickly!

1 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup golden corn syrup

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2-1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon ground anise

6 cups of flour, divided (gluten free or regular)


1. Cream butter and brown sugar; add eggs and mix well.

2. Add syrup and buttermilk to which the baking soda has been added.

3. Mix together 4 1/2 cups of flour and all the spices; add to butter mixture. Mix well.

4. Continue adding flour to form a soft, pliable dough.

5. Refrigerate dough.  (*GF dough may need to be placed in the freezer for an hour) When the dough is chilled, roll it into 1/2 inch thick ropes. (*Wet hands with water when working with the gluten free dough as it will be sticky)  Place ropes on parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Freeze until ready to bake.

6. With a sharp knife, cut ropes into 1 cm slices and place on cookie sheets that are well greased or parchment paper-lined. They should be about the size of a hazelnut.

7. Bake at 350F for about 8-9 minutes. Let cool for about 1 minute and then transfer each batch onto a clean cool baking sheet.

Makes a lovely Christmas gift!  Serve with hot tea or just snack on them out of a bowl!


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