My past Swiss mother in law was a wonderful cook, so when I entered the family she undertook my education in Swiss cooking and baking traditions with great spirit. Christmas biscuits are a much-loved tradition in both Switzerland and Germany and these Pfeffernusse biscuits (which translates as pepper-nuts as they contain pepper and are the size of a small walnut) were and remain a real favourite. Much like what we English-speakers know as gingerbread biscuits, they taste of all those typical Northern hemisphere Christmas spices. Despite the heat of an Australian Christmas, they still taste magical.
(Makes 80 sml biscuits)
270 g (2 ½ cups) plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
125 g unsalted butter, soft
90 g (¾ cup) soft brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
2 cups icing sugar
3 – 4 Tbsp hot water
- Preheat oven to 180˚C. Line to large baking trays with baking paper.
- Sift the flour, all the spices and bicarbonate of soda together.
- Beat the butter, soft brown sugar and molasses together until creamy. Beat in the egg until well combined.
- Using a spoon or scraper stir the flour mixture into the creamed butter mixture until a soft, well combined dough.
- Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll into approximately 3cm diameter logs. Cut each log into 2 cm wide pieces and then roll each piece in your hands to make a ball.
- Place on the baking trays with a little space in between. Press the tops down with a fork and then bake for 15 minutes until the bases of the biscuits are a little brown.
- Cool on trays for 10 minutes.
- To make the icing, stir the hot water into the icing sugar until any lumps have dissolved. Drizzle over the tops of the biscuits. Leave until the icing has hardened.
- Store in an airtight container.