Dutch Pepernoten

Our memories are very strongly connected to our sense of smell.  You all know how scents can trigger very strong memories – often instantly transporting you to a different time or place.

I am sure you can come up with your own collection of ‘scent memories’. For me, smelling crepes with cinnamon takes me back to rainy days as a kid, or smelling pipe tobacco reminds me of the grumpy caretaker at my childhood church, or the smell of freshly cut grass make me want to go for a run because it reminds me of track season.

The holidays are super sentimental, and it is during this time of year that most of us bring back long standing traditions.  Most of the time it doesn’t even feel like the holidays until we recreate these memories and take part in our favourite traditions!


My favourite holiday scent is Dutch spiced cookies (called pepernoten).  Pepernoten is a variety of the ginger or spiced cookie, with a beautiful flavour melody of ginger, aniseed, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. All of these spices give the cookies a little kick.  You know when a chai latte or chai tea has that extra wonderful spiciness to it?  It’s like that!

It is almost as though one whiff of these cookies announces that the holidays are officially here.  I have this vision of opening the oven and a fanfare of trumpets appear out of thin air and a banner reading “It’s Christmastime!” shoots out at the end.

I was pretty much in seventh heaven when Derek and I decorated our tree the other day while listening to Christmas music and eating peppernuts!

These crunchy pepernoten (directly translated into English as peppernuts) are tiny quarter-sized spiced cookies. They sort of remind me of the German pfeffernusse, but those typically have a white candy coating and are soft on the inside.

The beauty of their size is that you can have a whole bunch of these cookies before it adds up to one normal cookie.  But be careful not to eat these like popcorn!

Now it’s your turn! What are your favourite holiday scents? What is that one flavour or scent that instantly announces the holidays? Another favourite of mine are clementines!

Here’s what you need to make your own:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tbs milk
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground aniseed
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

* A note about the spices: I used our coffee grinder to grind the spices and it worked beautifully.  For the ginger I finely grated about 1 1/2 cubic inches of fresh ginger.

How to:

  • Preheat oven to 32oF.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar.
  • Now add all of the spices as well as the flour.
  • Add the milk and mix all the ingredients together.
  • Roll out marble sized balls by hand.  This may seem very small at first, but make sure they are about the size of your thumb nail.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  • The cookies should be very crunchy and hard by the time they have cooled down.


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