Pfeffernusse cookies & Italian espresso with a special "house seasonings"

Pfeffernusse cookies

Pfeffernusse cookies are a traditional Christmas cookie from Germany and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. They are what I refer to as an ?old world? cookie and you hardly ever see them anymore. Both Meakin and I are of German heritage, so these cookies are a tradition in both of our families.

Pfeffernusse cookies are covered in confectioner?s sugar and taste similar to gingerbread, but are spicy and seasoned with black pepper. In appearance pfeffernusse cookies can be confused with Mexican wedding cake cookies because both are covered in confectioner?s sugar.

I'm sure our ancestors must have made batches of these cookies, but since I?m not much of a baker, we buy our pfeffernusse cookies. However they aren?t always easy to find. Archway brands makes a very good cookie and I?ve also been able to find them at The Fresh Market. I grab several boxes as soon as I see them in December. I?ve found a couple of recipes on line at Fabulous Foods and All Recipes for those of you who are bakers and would like to add them to your cookie collection. If you have a recipe you would like to share with me, I would love to hear from you.

German Gluhwein

Pfeffernusse cookies are wonderful served with espresso or German Gluhwein. Last year I posted a recipe for German Gluhwein, taken from an old German cookbook, if you would like to make your own. It?s super simple and not too sweet.

I would like to share some secrets to making a good cup of espresso and a little ?house seasoning blend? that I got from a friend?s Italian grandmother that makes the espresso taste even better. You?re probably thinking who needs a recipe for espresso? Just stay with me for a moment and you?ll see.

First of all, I use the Bialetti Moka Express espresso stovetop pot. It?s the Italian made aluminum one with the funny looking little fellow with the mustache on the pot. Bialetti is the world?s number one coffee-maker and the most copied coffee coffee-maker in the world, so don?t settle for an imitation. Best of all, it?s not expensive. The six cup version costs around $30 and sizes range from one cup to twelve. Not a bad price considering some of the electric espresso machines can run into the hundreds of dollars.

Always buy the best coffee you can find. We prefer the Italian illy brand because it is 100% sustainably grown Arabica coffee and in our own taste tests, it always wins hands down to other brands.

I mix the Illy espresso blend with a little of what I call ?my house seasonings.? An excellent Italian cook shared her grandmother?s espresso seasonings with me and I want to pass it on to you. She whispered to me, "This will take the bitterness out of the espresso and no one will know your secret." This is how you do it.

Before brewing, sprinkle the coffee grounds with a little sugar (to your taste ? I don?t use very much) and top with one star anise. When I don?t have a star anise, I?ve substituted a good pinch of anise seeds with excellent results. Mix every so slightly, then brew your espresso according to the manufacturer?s direction. That?s all there is to it. Very easy and so, so delicious. Great for a snowy day. Here?s our first big snowfall of the season. Winter?s starting early this year.

These are my own opinions and I was not compensated by any brand name mentioned.. 

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