Pfeffernüsse Cookies

I remember these cookies from my American childhood: treacly, spicy, and delicious. The closest I can describe them is like crispy gingerbread. You can roll the gluten-free dough out and use any cookie cutter shape you fancy; or, make balls which go lovely and crackly.

The dough should be made in advance and stored in the fridge until ready for baking.

Makes: 4 dozen + cookies, depending on size


  • 430g gluten-free flour, plus extra for rolling/cutting as required
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder (only necessary if your GF flour mix is plain, not self-raising)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (about 5-6 whole green cardamom pods, seeds removed and heartily crushed)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 25g lard or vegetable shortening, cubed and softened
  • 55g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • 60g soft dark brown sugar (dark muscavado or molasses sugar will make them even richer)
  • 1 large egg (62-70g weighed in its shell)
  • 95g golden syrup
  • 120g dark treacle (molasses)
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 unwaxed lemon, finely grated zest only
  • Icing sugar, for dusting


  • Mortar & pestle (if crushing cardamom seeds)
  • One large and one medium mixing bowl, plus a teacup for baking soda
  • Electric mixer (hand-held or stand), if not creaming fats/sugar by hand
  • Sieve
  • Clingfilm
  • Two baking trays
  • Baking/parchment paper
  • Rolling pin (optional)
  • Cookie cutters (optional)
  • Cooling rack


  1. Put the flour, baking powder (if using), and spices into a medium bowl, and mix with a fork. Get a sieve ready.
  2. Whisk the lard, butter, and sugar in a large bowl on medium-low speed until creamy. Add the egg and whisk on medium speed until well combined. Manually stir in the golden syrup and treacle, mixing thoroughly.
  3. Add a couple of drops of warm water to the bicarb and stir until fully dissolved; add to the fats/sugar bowl with the lemon zest, and stir well.
  4. Sift the dry ingredients in, and stir manually until fully combined. Pull the dough into a ball (it will be very soft now), flatten it into a thick disc, and tightly wrap in clingfilm. Put into the fridge to firm up overnight.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 165 C (150 C fan-assisted). Line both trays with baking paper.
  6. You can roll small balls of dough about 15 grams between your palms (it helps to flour your hands first). Or, roll out the dough onto a heavily floured surface to about 1/4″ thick, and use any cookie cutter you have. Place the cookies onto the lined baking trays 3x5, and put remaining dough back into the fridge.
  7. Bake for around 15 minutes, until browned and a light finger tap shows them to be firm. Remove the trays from the oven and leave the cookies for 5 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack. Let the trays cool for 5 more minutes before loading up again with remaining dough, and baking.
  8. Once all cookies are fully cooled, dust with icing sugar for serving.

Once again, my Twitter friend Elsbeth Meier-Sam has suggested an American classic that Brits should get to know better. I’ve altered her grandmother’s recipe to be GF, and for British measurements and ingredients.


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