Family Heritage Homework – Pfeffernusse Cookies

pfeffernusse cookies

Much of my kids homework these days is focused on learning about family history and ancestors.  Luckily my mom has been charting and using to come up with some great names and family tree material.  I didn’t know my family had much German but my daughter and mother figured out that six greats back came from Germany.  Like others came to America looking for a better life.  My kids are understanding to be  grateful they were born in America and provided all the opportunities and freedom that those in other countries and even in our own history, did not have.  They also can’t imagine giving up their shorts and yoga pant style for proper clothing.


Last night was the culmination of my daughter’s family heritage study.  All the parents and families were invited to a feast to bring and share a dish from their heritage, and view all the family trees and country research the kids have assembled.  This was such a fun night.  The number of countries and food represented was staggering.  While it’s all exciting to see, this sample from around the world does not work well on my stomach.  The kids seems to have no problem putting sushi, next to perogie, next to spaghetti, next to baklava.  I had to be a bit more selective (and still needed Tums when I got home).  Most people made their dishes from scratch but a few were store/restaurant bought.  No judgement.  In fact I complimented a friend on her dish and she said it was frozen from the grocery store.  Apparently she perked it up  with a homemade sauce.


Being that my daughter picked Germany, we had a tricky time with the recipe choice.  Remember she’s a vegetarian, so bratwurst and stuffed cabbage was not going to happen.  We did a test run of some baked goods and she decided to make pfeffernuse cookies.  They are similar in flavor to a molasses or ginger cookies but with more spice, specifically pepper.  I skipped on the anise extract, as I couldn’t find.  Thankfully this made about twice as many as the 3 dozen the recipe says.  While this was an easy recipe, I had to remember to build in the 2 hour refrigeration time.  Luckily one batch, and we were on time and ready to share at school.

Pfeffernusse Cookies from

makes 3 dozen

  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  •  1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar for dusting


  1. Stir together the molasses, honey, shortening, and margarine in a saucepan over medium heat; cook and stir until creamy. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the eggs.
  2. Combine the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, anise, cinnamon, baking soda, pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Add the molasses mixture and stir until thoroughly combines. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Roll the dough into acorn-sized balls. Arrange on baking sheets, spacing at least 1 inch apart.
  4. Bake in preheated oven 10 to 15 minutes. Move to a rack to cool. Dust cooled cookies with confectioners’ sugar.