Have you ever had pfeffernusse? (I have to admit, I had to copy and paste the name throughout this entire blog post. D’oh!) Well, I guess the first question is, who knows what “pfeffernusse” is? Even though it sounds like a complicated dish (or reminds me of the rabbit “Hasenpfeffer” stew they always wanted to bake Bugs Bunny in!), pfeffernusse is a kind of biscuit-y cookie coming from the Netherlands. Dense and filled with chopped nuts, pfeffernusse are spiced with cinnamon and ground cloves, and covered with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. They’re traditionally made on the December 5 holiday of Sinterklaas, but in modern days, they’re eaten all throughout the Christmas season. I had these little round ball cookies only once: during the annual holiday cookie exchange at work, my coworker who comes from a Dutch-German Mennonite family made her family’s pfeffernusse recipe. They were heavy, and a little hard to bite into, but once you got to the heart of the cookie, it was delicious: spicy, nutty, and sweet from the confectioner’s sugar. They looked a little like powdered Munchkin donuts, but they definitely didn’t taste like them!
There aren’t many bakeries in New York City that make this traditional Dutch treat: spicy and jaw-breaking hard when they’re first made, they aren’t the shining star of a holiday cookie menu. But you can find pfeffernusse–and other old Dutch and German baked treats–at Glaser’s Bake Shop on the Upper East Side. Full of old-world nostalgia and immune to the passing fads of macarons and cupcakes, Glaser’s has been in the same location–and run by the same family–since 1902. All of their recipes seem to come from that era, too, from the chocolate pecan brownies to the Bavarian cherry spritz. They offer pfeffernusse cookies for the season, and you can bet they’re the most authentic and tastiest you’ll find in the city. If you’ve never tried these cookies before, head to Glaser’s Bake Shop and see what you’ve been missing!
Glaser’s Bake Shop
1670 1st Ave (between 87th St & 88th St)
“Freshly baked pfeffernüsse — small round cookies covered in powdered sugar — can still be found just around the corner from St. Joseph’s, at least at Christmastime, in the wood and glass cases of Glaser’s Bake Shop, a third-generation, 106-year-old business at 1670 First Avenue.”–The New York Times
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Although this bakery has German roots, it does not offer a wide assortment of the most typical of German baked items. Although you can still get things like “Linzer Tarts” and “Apfelstrudel” as well as “Stollen” and “Pfeffernüsse” during the holidays, it’s more the “look and feel” as well as the quality that still makes “Glaser’s” a German-American style bakery. The last of it’s kind in Yorkville’s “Little Germany”, Glaser’s lives up to its reputation as one of the best bake shops in NYC.”–Kent W.
“Upon walking in, it really is like being transported in time (a bit). All of the antique fittings, wood cabinets and details are original (or at least very old) and the place smells terrific. The display cases are full of tempting baked goods from huge lemon meringue pies (which are excellent) to tarts, cookies, cupcakes, etc. They always seem to have seasonal goodies. Their pfeffernüsse and stollen at Christmastime are phenomenal.”–Justin S.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!