In the Netherlands we have very special gingerbread cookies we eat for our Dutch Santa Claus celebration (Sinterklaas). We actually love to eat peppernuts all year round, because they are so delicious! Making these gingerbread cookies yourself is so fun and tasty. This easy gingerbread cookies recipe can’t fail!
Pepernoten, Pfeffernusse, Pfeffernuts, and Pebernødder
In the Netherlands, we are not the only ones to make these special gingerbread cookies. Our eastern neighbors (Germany) have pfeffernusse, ginger nuts that actually contain nuts and are covered with icing sugar. In the USA, pfeffernuts are a thing – those come from the Germans! The Danes have pebernødder. In all the other countries, however, they eat peppernuts during Christmas. Funnily enough, our southern neighbors (Belgium, a country that also celebrate Sinterklaas) don’t eat peppernuts, but just plain old gingerbread!
Sinterklaas and Santa Claus
Santa Claus is officially a corruption of the Dutch Sinterklaas. The Dutch brought Sinterklaas to America in the 17th century and there they needed a name for the British Father Christmas, and they thought ‘Sinterklaas’ sounded good and even his appearance was partly copied!
Sinterklaas is a celebration that has been celebrated for centuries! Saint Nicolaas was an actual saint ages ago (on the lands where currently Turkey lays), who brought gifts. Over time, of course traditions adapt and now the story is that he comes by boat from Spain and for his birthday, on December 5th, kids get presents, and older kids and adults give each other gifts. In Belgium, Sinterklaas is celebrated a little different (he comes by plane, the 6th is his birthday, and it’s for kids only).
Sinterklaas was once a celebration all over Europe. But it was banned by the church, yet the Dutch fought for their tradition.
Funnily enough, Sinterklaas probably had no permanent helper at all until the 19th century. Only at the end of the 19th century a single Black Pete (blackface) appeared, and over the decades more followed. Can you help make Sinterklaas blackface-less again? Help and sign the petition!
We use self-raising flour, dark brown sugar, gingerbread spices, salt, butter and milk. Making peppernuts is actually very easy. You knead all ingredients together until you have formed a nice ball.
Let this ball rest (in cling film) in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. You can skip this step, but it will make your gingerbread cookies grainier and less crispy (see the difference below).
Then you roll very small marbles (with a diameter of no more than 1 cm / 0.4 inch) from the dough, because the dough expands during baking. Also keep enough space between the marbles. You don’t have to flatten the balls. We made about 120 marbles from the dough. We had to bake this in parts, otherwise it wouldn’t fit.
Bake the gingerbread cookies for 15-20 minutes until crispy at 180 °C / 356 °F. Let the gingerbread cookies cool completely before eating them. You can also store the cooled peppernuts in a closed container.
Vegan Gingerbread Cookies Recipe
This recipe can be made completely vegan if you use vegetable milk and vegan butter!
Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
You can easily make chocolate gingerbread cookies. Melt a chocolate bar in a bain marie (in a bowl on a pan with boiling water) and dip the peppernuts into the melted chocolate. Let the gingerbread cookies cool and harden; your chocolate gingerbread cookies are ready!
- 250 gram self-raising flour 2 cups
- 125 gram dark brown sugar ⅝ cup
- 4 tablespoon (vegan) milk
- 100 gram (vegan) butter ½ cup
- 2 tablespoon gingerbread spices
- pinch of salt
- Knead all ingredients together with your hands (or possibly with a mixer with dough hooks). Once you can form a ball, the dough is ready.
- Wrap the dough in cling film and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. You can also skip this step, but it will make your gingerbread cookies grittier and less crunchy.
- Preheat the oven to 180 °C / 356 °F.
- Cover a baking tray with parchment paper and take the dough out of the refrigerator.
- Turn the dough into very small marbles (maximum Ø1 cm / 0.4 inch) and place them on the baking tray. You don't have to press them.
- The peppernuts will grow much bigger during baking so leave enough space between the spice nuts.
- Bake the gingerbread cookies for 15-20 minutes. We bake about 120 gingerbread cookies in the oven in 2 times. Let the gingerbread cookies cool completely before eating or storing them in an airtight cookie jar.
- Tip: turn it into chocolate gingerbread cookies by melting chocolate a bain-marie in a pan and putting the cooled gingerbread cookies through the chocolate.
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