Steaming chicken soup. A pile of playful noodles. Fragrant spice cookies. There are as many versions of these popular foods as there are cooks in the kitchen. Changes came from availability of ingredients, feedback from those at the table, and the mood of the cook.
Peppernuts, pfeffernusse, pepermoten, pebernodder. So many names of spice cookies from around the world – are the round cookies aptly named because of their tastes, or shapes, or colors?
These Norwegian Pepper Spice Balls are less assertive than their more heavily spiced cousins – but don’t let that fool you for the generous amount of white pepper leaves an unexpected warmth at the back of the tongue.
Make a batch of these light-colored rounds, age them in a tin for at least a week (up to a month), and when you feel the urge to take a step away from the flurry of winter (people, holidays, weather, or sniffles), take a quiet break with something hot in your mug and savor these cookies.
Recipe: Norwegian Pepper Spice Balls
Soft, lightly sweet, and loaded with white pepper, mellow these cookies for at least a week. Adjust the finely ground white pepper to your preference but don’t substitute with ground black pepper.
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2-3 teaspoons brandy or water
- Make dough: in a stand or hand-held mixer on medium to medium-high speed, beat eggs and granulated sugar until light colored and thick in texture, about 3-5 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, mix together well flour, baking powder, white pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. Incorporate dry mixture into wet ingredients by hand to make a smooth and firm dough. Gather up the dough and place the dough in a small bowl. Cover the top with plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature overnight or up to 24 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350º F: Roll dough into balls into generous 1-inch spheres and place on a lined baking sheet spacing cookies 1 1/2″ inches apart. Bake on middle oven rack until bottoms are lightly golden, 14-18 minutes. If baking more than one sheet at a time, halfway through baking, rotate sheets top to bottom and front to back. When cookies are done, remove from oven and cool cookies on baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing to cooling racks.
- Ice cookies: when cookies are completely cool, mix until smooth the powdered sugar and brandy. The thin icing should drip from a spoon like thin syrup. Dip the top of a cookie into the icing and place the cookie upright on a wire rack. The icing should easily cover the top and sides of the cookie and look translucent. Dry the iced cookie for 15 minutes. Depending on how the icing looks, add more powdered sugar to thicken or more brandy to thin, mixing added ingredients well. Continue with icing remaining cookies and dry on wire racks.
- When icing is dry, store in an airtight tin separately layers with wax or parchment paper for at least a week and up to 4 weeks. The cookies soften with ageing.
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.