Crunchy Gingerbread Bites (Pfeffernusse) for Christmas Giving


Crunchy Gingerbread Bites are perfect for Christmas gift-giving or entertaining.

A few years ago, my entry into the Star-Telegram Christmas cookie contest made the first cut.  It was exciting even though the prize was no big deal.

I didn’t win.

These cookies did–I think, or maybe it was second place. I’m not sure. Anyway, I printed the details and stuck it in my someday-I-want-to-try-this file.

When I heard our church needed cookies for the Christmas baskets we give to the older and less mobile members, I dug out this recipe. It was the perfect opportunity to experiment because I would have something to do with them besides stuff my face. Turns out they make excellent gifts for three reasons:

  • They don’t crumble.
  • They stay fresh and delicious up to 3 weeks or can be frozen.
  • No decorating required.

By the way, I made up the name “Crunchy Gingerbread Bites” because who can pronounce their real name unless you speak German?  I won’t even try to explain the translation, pepper nuts, but you can read about it on Wikipedia.

These miniature sweets are some trouble, officially qualifying them as Christmas cookies. I’ve figured out if you want to be labeled a Christmas cookie, you must be either red, green, or labor-intensive.  Not saying these are difficult to make–they couldn’t be easier. It just takes a chunk of time to cut all those little pieces of dough. Don’t worry, the last tray only took about a third of the time of the first tray.


Roll a piece of dough about the size of a pencil. Cut in 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces.

Originally, I thought I would roll each little ball by hand.  HA! There must be about a thousand per batch. People eat them by the handfuls, so trying to make them look perfect is wasted energy.


Space far enough apart so you don’t end up with any Siamese twins like I did.

To package them, I put about 3/4 cup in each cellophane bag (available at craft stores) and tied with red raffia. A cute Christmas label would have been nice. (Sigh) Maybe next year.

p.s. While “googling” about the Star-Telegram cookie contest, I ran across this post written by Amy of Sing for Your Supper. She is a local food blogger who actually won the cookie contest in 2010.  She published her winning recipe here. I have met Amy and was so excited to find out about this. A belated “Congratulations” to you, Amy.

Crunchy Gingerbread Bites (Pfeffernusse)
Recipe type: Cookies
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Crispy bite-size cookies reminiscent of gingerbread.
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons dark syrup (I used date syrup but dark corn syrup or molasses is also good)
  • 3-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons soda
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon anise oil (optional)
  1. Whip room-temperature butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar and egg and continue to beat.
  2. Add remaining ingredients in order given.
  3. Pull off small pieces of dough and roll to the thickness of a pencil. Slice into ¼-1/2 inch pieces. Place on a cookie sheet covered with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 7-9 minutes or until bottoms begin to brown.


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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Arlene December 16, 2016 at 7:03 pm

i made these one time last year and loved them so i decided to make them again but this time my dough is very crumbly i cant get it to stay together so i can roll them. what did i do wrong this time and how can i fix it. please help.


Paula December 18, 2016 at 3:08 pm

Since I didn’t watch you make them last year or this year, I’m at a loss as to what you did wrong. Perhaps you measured wrong? or left something out? Sorry I can’t be more helpful.


Nicole Ferrero December 7, 2016 at 1:10 pm

My grandmother gave a similar recipe to my mother many many years ago. My mother has been making them for many years now, as long as I’ve been live I think(43) On thanksgiving we have a rolling party and they get done very quickly. It’s a great family fun time. And I charish it every year. Eating them slow so they will last most of the winter. They are delishious and crunchy. Love them!! By the way, they stay fresh a lot longer then three weeks, and still taste good. ;)🎄


Paula December 13, 2016 at 2:16 pm

I love the idea of a “rolling party”. What fun! Thanks for sharing.


Paula December 21, 2015 at 10:28 am

Thanks for sharing this recipe. My Grandma always made them and used a thimble to cut them out. Since they have anise, they were really never a favorite of mine, but I have great memories associated with them.


Paula December 22, 2015 at 2:07 pm

A thimble? What a great idea! paula


Geri Owen July 28, 2015 at 6:54 pm

Regarding your Gingerbread Bites, do you use actual butter or crisco? Seems like when I make cookies like M&M or chocolate chip and use butter, they are too thin so I want to make sure that you are actually using butter. I want to make these right the first time! Thank you,


Rhonda January 15, 2012 at 10:15 am

Thank you Paula. I love your blog!


Paula January 15, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Thanks Rhonda. Appreciate you stopping by.


Rhonda January 14, 2012 at 6:59 pm

I am brand new to your blog and tried 2 bread recipes today using
my bread machine with great results!! I do have a question,
is instant yeast the same as bread machine yeast?


Paula January 14, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Rhonda, Yes, they are interchangeable in my recipes. pr


Natasha December 23, 2011 at 2:49 am

Mmmmm yum.
In Holland we eat millions of these at Saint Nicolas on the fifth of December (and in the months leading up to it).
Most of them are shop bought. Only the really lucky kids get home made ones likes these (and have fun helping their mums make them).


Janet December 20, 2011 at 9:04 pm

This was a family recipe and they are all kinds of yummy. They go great with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.


Sherry December 19, 2011 at 11:25 am

I made the recipe to a T, however, rolling the dough out was not a option as it kept crumbling. I had to form a “rope” with my fingers and then cut so they were more squarish. What did I do wrong? They did come out fantastic nontheless! What could I have added to soften it up without changing the final product? Thanks!


Paula December 19, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Sherry, I do not roll mine out either. Just squish the dough together with your hands and roll into pencil shapes with your fingers just like you did. I do not roll out cookie dough–any cookie dough, unless it’s inside a ziplock bag. Just not my thing. Glad they turned out tasty.


shelley December 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm

If going with the rolled pencil approach try putting the rolls in the freezer, (or out on the porch if you live in Canada as I do where the outdoors is one big freezer for 5 months of the year) prior to cutting them. It will help hold the shape of the little cookies and make them easier to handle.


Paula December 18, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Shelly, Great suggestion about putting the dough “pencils” in the freezer. Seems like it would be easier although it’s not too difficult without doing that.


Sara November 30, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I love reading the comment section before trying a recipe to make sure I don’t mess up and just because sometimes comments are entertaining! I’m in SW Ontario and from December until late February our porch is the fridge/freezer too!

Thank you for the recipe Paula! I like your name for the it, but I think I’ll stick with Pfeffernusse! I’m not German. It just makes me smile!

Merry Christmas!


shelley December 17, 2011 at 2:24 pm

My husband’s Mennonite family has made this traditional Christmas cookie for years and for the twenty years we’ve been married I’ve made them annually. Some times I’ve rolled the dough flat and used a tiny cutter I received at kitchen product party making little flower and stars. Recently I saw a recipe on-line that suggested your roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick on a cookie sheet, score it in small squares and bake it, breaking apart the cookies once cool. I may try this method this year along with a batch of the traditional ones. I find the flavor reminiscent of chai tea. yummy!


Heather December 15, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Love this recipe! I signed up for a baked goods swap and still had not decided what to mail out. this will be perfect and still have some for the kids at home!


Piper December 15, 2011 at 8:25 am

I just like to say Pfeffernusse…. must be the German in me.
These look great and I am MAKING them this weekend. I am running out of time before Christmas, and these fill the bill. I had such high hopes for doing some Holiday recipes on my blog…. ::sigh::


Paula December 15, 2011 at 8:17 am

I can imagine how *tedious* these must be to make, rolling out each pencil strip of dough and then cutting it. The recipe does sound like it makes a lot of pencil strips!! Having said all that, all the effort would certainly be worth it as the quantities this makes is perfect for gift giving…lots of gift giving 🙂

They look delicious.


The Café Sucré Farine December 15, 2011 at 5:44 am

How fun Paula! These look wonderful – I love almost anything German and Pfeffernusse is not exception – oh, and I do speak German but I love your new name!


Der December 14, 2011 at 9:44 pm

These really are adorable little cookies… almost look like they are made for dolls!!!!
Now I am curious about what recipe you submitted to the contest!


Paula December 14, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Hey Derinda, It was these cookies: Soft Cinnamon Cookies with Browned Butter Icing. Grandma Herd made them a LOT.


tspoon December 14, 2011 at 6:01 pm

These look good, was trying to figure out wh
at to take to the office “do” next week.


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