High Nutrition/Low Bullshit: Childproof Vegan Holiday Pfeffernüsse Cookies

You remember holiday baking from your childhood. Green and red and white, food coloring and frosting everywhere. “Red hots” for eyeballs on snowmen and M&M’s wherever you could justify them on reindeer and trees. When Mom wasn’t looking, you would sneak candy or bites of dough until your stomach hurt. Ah, Christmas.

You love those memories. There you were, standing on the “helper’s stool” in the kitchen, carefully measuring ingredients and triumphantly dumping them in the Big Blue Bowl. Fast forward a bit, and you’re the one working with the aspiring baker.

Your challenge: find a cookie that is fun in process, will jive with the attention span of a three-year-old, is tasty enough for adult palates, and (oh Portland) is vegan or gluten free or both. In this case, vegan it is.

Also, uh, it’s 11pm and you have an 8:30 am cookie date with that three-year-old.

Out of the cupboard comes the flour, almond meal, sifter, spices, sea salt. Grab the coffee-spice grinder. Measure out anise seed, cardamom seed; grind and add to sifter. Stop to inhale the delicious spice smell. Combine, abandon.

Glass measuring cup, check. Carve a half-cup of coconut oil from the jar, wondering if something that is that solid at room temperature can possibly be a good cardiac choice. Add molasses and agave; microwave in intervals to melt the oil without causing a sugar-explosion. Mix in brown sugar.

Combine wet and dry; place bowl under your guy’s nose and insist that it smells amazing. He agrees. Wrap dough, place in fridge, go to bed.

The next morning, while your wee helper is busy telling stories, portion out cookie dough as your mother taught you (scoop with one teaspoon, scrape with the other). Roll into balls, place on cookie sheet per approval of your assistant. (When she’s not looking, re-arrange the impossible cookie-dough mountain into something more equally-spaced.)

Bake, let the cookies cool until there’s no danger of burning small hands. Non-chalantly give the apron’ed child a bowl of powdered sugar and, after a failed attempt at verbal instruction, demonstrate how to “give the cookie a sugar bath.” Patiently watch as an inch of sugar is carefully mounded on each cookie. (When she’s not looking, reduce sugar-mounds.) Discuss how many cookies it is smart to eat. Sweep up a small mountain of sugar. Wipe down entire kitchen twice. Success.

Amelia-Approved Pfeffernüsse


1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon each: anise, cinnamon, cardamom
1/2 teaspoon each: allspice, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup agave
powdered sugar


Combine flour, almond meal, salt, and spices. (If using whole spices, grind and sift.) In a separate container, melt coconut oil and blend in agave, molasses, and brown sugar. Combine the two mixtures and refrigerate two hours or overnight.

Separate dough into small chunks (about 2 tablespoons) and roll into balls. Bake on ungreased sheets at 350F for 7-10 minutes. When cool enough to handle but still warm, roll cookies in powdered sugar. (The sugar will stick best to warm cookies.) Store in an airtight container for up to six months.

Somewhere, there are culinary sprites who flit around kitchens and joyously compose dishes dusted with sea salt and topped with shaved fennel. Meanwhile, in actual kitchens, there are humans who make good food while being fully occupied with the business of being normal people. Welcome to High Nutrition, Low Bullshit – where we still make locally-sourced pesto, tasty kale dishes, and damn fine vegan pies – but minus the illusions and glamour.


Comments 2

  1. Kristin Bott

    Future adventures with this: try gluten-free flour combinations, omit the brown sugar entirely, play around with spice mixtures/sugar content/type of oil. But this is at least a starting point for baking adventures…

  2. jasmin

    i LOVE your description of how to manage and rearrange everything while your little one is not watching- i’m doing it the same way over here 😀 we will try to succeed at a gluten free version of pfeffernüsse the upcoming weekend!

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