Pfeffernüsse, or Pepper Nuts, are a Christmas speciality here in Germany. They rock up for the festive season and come in a chocolate or sugar glaze. For this review, I’m looking at the glazed Pfeffernüsse from Weiss.
This isn’t a particularly special bag of Pfeffernüsse, just one that landed in my supermarket shopping basket. It can be difficult with German packaging sometimes to tell whether you’re looking at a premium or basic product – but I’d say this is a fairly standard offering.
Now then, I’m of the (potentially disastrous) opinion that Lebkuchen is not gingerbread. Before you start sending hate mail, hear me out. In the UK we like ginger – for whatever reason – and we use it liberally in sticky ginger cakes, sponges and break-your-teeth hard ginger biscuits. They’re fabulous dunked in coffee, by the way. I could literally stand in the Grasmere Gingerbread shop inhaling the butter-syrup-ginger smell for hours. If it was a candle aroma, I’d buy it. But when it comes to German gingerbread, it doesn’t have that punch I’m used to.
Which brings me to these Pfeffernüsse. They’re the strongly flavoured relative of the popular lebkuchen baking family. I much prefer the plain glazed variety to the chocolate dipped sort, but each to their own.
These are a neat little dome of firm, dense and slightly chewy cake. They’re not crunchy like a biscuit and they’re not light and airy like a sponge cake – though they are soft enough that you’d be best describing them as a cake. It’s the texture very typical of German seasonal treats. Despite that, they’re not dry to eat.
These are very sugar sweet, but then they’re coated in a sugar glaze. It’s quite nice though because the spices in these are so potent, the sugar does a bit of legwork to offset it. And it leaves you wanting only a couple – they’d be hard to chain munch unless you’ve got a very sweet tooth.
Honestly though, these are potent. The ingredients simply lists “spices” but there’s a lot going on in here and this version in particular is very heavy handed with the star anise. There’s a mixture of cinnamon, clove and ginger going on too – along with the obligatory pepper – but for me it’s the anise that comes through and smacks me in the face. Or tongue, as it were.
Unfortunately, whilst I usually prefer a strongly flavoured Pfeffernüsse to a Lebkuchen, there’s too much anise flavour at the front in here for me. It’s worth knowing that I’m not the biggest fan of anise flavours (which is odd, considering I tend to really like liquorice) but I know I’m quite aware of its flavour when I’m eating it. Isn’t it strange how people can have sensitivity to certain tastes?
So, would I recommend these? That entirely depends. One: the texture of a Pfeffernüsse isn’t going to be for everyone – they’re that sort of dense cake that is almost dry but veers away at the end. Two: Only attempt this brand if you’re okay with aniseedy flavours. I know lots of people aren’t, so this wouldn’t be a brand for everyone to enjoy.