Moving to Germany more than 12 years ago, there was a lot to learn about German Christmas traditions and I remember being very inspired to absorb as many as possible in those first years.
One that jumped out at me and which was a great place to start learning some crucial German vocabulary was baking Weihnachtsplätzchen (Christmas cookies/biscuits). I used to bake a lot and so I went crazy those first few years trying out so many recipes and amazing everyone with my productivity as well as increasing all our waistlines. I had always baked a little at Christmas but they really take it to another level over here with so many different types and many of the recipes were totally new for me.
I've calmed down a bit these days and limit myself to a handful of tried and trusted recipes that everyone loves and, most importantly, are relatively easy to make. Even when the crazy season is upon us.
I'd like to share my favourite Plätzchen recipe with you today - one that I was baking long before I moved here but has effortlessly settled in among the more traditional German types such as Spritzgebäck or Zimtsterne.
Black Pepper Chocolate Cookies. Oh my, these are heaven! I think the recipe is Swiss originally and is super easy to make and to adjust to your own personal taste:
Black pepper chocolate cookies
- 150g butter
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I think the original recipe calls for less but I always use more, much more! I love the kick that the pepper gives these rich nibbles)
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon (adjust to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (I leave this out personally)
- 1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 200g castor sugar
- 1 egg - lightly beaten
- 150g flour and add about 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (we can't get flour with baking plain powder already added here in Germany so if you have self-raising flour, leave out the extra baking powder)
- pinch of salt
- 75g cocoa
Preheat oven to about 180°c
- Line baking tray with greaseproof paper.
- Mix together the butter, pepper, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla until smooth.
- Add in sugar and beat until creamed.
- Add egg a bit at a time mixing in fully before each addition.
- Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and a pinch of salt.
- Mix to the egg/sugar mix and form a dough.
- Cool in the fridge for about 30 mins.
- Either form small balls with your hands and flatten them down on the baking tray OR
- Roll out the dough (it will be very sticky so you will need lots of flour) to about 1/2 cm thick and cut out using pretty snowflake cutters. (I do this)
- Place on baking tray giving a little space between each one (though they don't spread much).
- Bake for about 10 mins or until the biscuit has just turned a slightly darker brown (difficult to see as they are so dark to start with!) or they appear to be becoming firm to the touch.
- Leave to cool for a few mins before transferring to a cooling tray.
- Dust with icing sugar for a great Christmas look.
- This will make anything upwards of 30 biscuits depending on thickness and shape. Store in an airtight container - they keep for a couple of weeks very well.
- I tend to add more black pepper into the recipe as I like the bit of a kick this gives the sweet chocolate biscuit. This recipe is very easy to adjust to suit your own taste - we like it hot round here!
- The thicker the dough/ball, the less crisp the biscuits will become. Experiment with the mixture to find what suits you best.
I made this layout some time ago and it features the original recipe with all my comments and changes marked all over it! Why not capture a favourite recipe on your page today? Don't forget to share over at Mr Linky if you do. Come on, make my mouth water!