Showing posts with label Pfeffernüsse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pfeffernüsse. Show all posts

Dec 24, 2017

Vegan Peppernuts (Päpanät)

Peppernuts (also called Pfeffernüsse or päpanät) are a tiny cookie baked in Mennonite homes during the Christmas season. This recipe for peppernuts is egg-free and vegan. They're deliciously crunchy, delightfully spicy, and highly addictive little cookies that are perfect for gift giving during the holidays! 


My mother is descended from the Plautdietsch-speaking Mennonites who left the steppes of Russia in 1874 and chose the Kansas prairie for their new home. The modest home my great-grandfather Jacob Krause built in 1874 is part of the Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum near Goessel, Kansas. Peppernuts are found in various forms across Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium. In Plautdiestch they are called päpanät (pronounced pay-pa-nate). The name peppernut does not mean it contains nuts, though some varieties do. The crunchy cookies are roughly the size of nuts and can be eaten by the handful, which may account for the name.

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Traditional Mennonite recipes for peppernuts usually contain beaten egg. Eggs are not considered suitable for vegetarians in South Asia so through a little trial and error I came up with this egg-free adaptation of my aunt's original recipe. My vegan version of her recipe is just as flavorful, crunchy, long-lasting, delicious and sturdy as the Mennonite original. Mine may be a tad spicier in keeping with the South Asian influences though. Although these little cookies are not the prettiest of holiday treats- they are truly addictive. It's really hard to stop eating them, once you start. You are warned! Nary a Christmas goes by that I don't bake a huge batch of these for friends, neighbors, and even the Imam!


Every Mennonite family has a slightly different recipe for peppernuts. The variations are multitude. Some use butter or vegetable shortening. Some use corn syrup, molasses, or golden syrup. Some use brown sugar and some use white sugar. Spice mixtures may or may not include black pepper, white pepper, or even no pepper at all! One thing that is constant in Mennonite recipes is star anise- not ground anise, not anise oil, not anise extract - it has to be STAR ANISE. I have to say that star anise does have a tad extra sweetness as well as a slightly root beer-ish note in addition to the licorice flavor of plain anise. I also like the warmth of black pepper and the citrusy zing of green cardamom in my peppernuts. Anyway you spice them, I really hope you give this unique little cookie a try! No doubt they'll become a favorite made year after year in your home too!

Ingredients:
1&1/2 C vegetable shortening or margarine*
1&1/2 C sugar
3/4 C golden syrup or corn syrup**
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground star anise
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg or allspice
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground green cardamom
1&1/2 tsp baking powder
5 C flour
extra flour to roll out dough

Here's what to do:
1) Melt shortening or margarine in a large saucepan. Add sugar, syrup, and salt to melted oil and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and allow mixture cool to room temperature.
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 2) Combine ground spices, baking powder, and flour in large mixing bowl. Stir until well mixed. I use my stand mixer to do this.

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3) Add cooled syrup mixture to the flour and spices. Stir until well blended. The dough should be a little sticky yet stiff. Cover dough with cling film and refrigerate overnight or for several days.

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4) When ready to bake preheat oven to 350F/180C . Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking matts. Sprinkle a little flour or your counter and roll dough into long ropes about as thick as your ring finger. It's usually best to take about a half cup of dough at a time. This dough is really easy to work with despite being a little sticky. I put the ropes of dough onto a baking tray while I'm rolling them.

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5)  Cut the ropes into 1/2 inch pieces and place on prepared pans at least an inch apart. Cookies will puff up and spread a little bit. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in preheated 350F/180C oven or until cookies just begin to brown.

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6) Remove from pan and allow to cool. Cookies will be soft when warm but will gradually crisp up when completely cooled.

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7) Makes about 4 liters or 16 cups of little cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months. (Yes, I said 3 months - these are typically sturdy Mennonites cookies!)

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Helpful Hints:
*I have made this recipe with vegetable shortening, margarine, and butter (and various combinations of whatever I could find here in Nepal). All work fine in this recipe but I prefer the extra crunchiness you get with vegetable shortening (Crisco to be precise) .

**I have made this recipe variously with dark corn syrup, light corn syrup, golden syrup, honey, and molasses. Light corn syrup would be what Mennonites from Kansas would use but our Canadian brethren prefer golden syrup. I have to agree with the Canucks on their preference for golden syrup in this recipe. I like the slight caramel flavor that golden syrup gives this recipe best.

This recipe is time consuming but the results are well worth it. Traditionally this cookie is often made in huge batches as a community at the local church to reduce the tedium. (My aunt's original recipe called for a whopping 15 cups of flour!) I usually make the dough one day and freeze it. Then I roll out the ropes of dough and place them on a tray in the freezer until the next day. Then on the last day I fire up my tiny toaster oven, chop the ropes of dough into half inch pieces, and bake them. (This takes all day with our random power outages.) A more efficient plan would be to get a few pals together and delegate the tasks of rolling, chopping, and baking.

Happy Holidays!
Wishing you all the best in this festive season - Peace, Love, Hope & Joy!
Bibi
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