Thursday, November 30, 2017

Heritage Recipe: German Nut Print Cookies

   It was a grumpy afternoon when we threw the couch out the front door and hauled it down to the dump, its final resting place. Having survived the dogs and Little Mister's preschool years, it was a beaten down affair with rips, tears, and even a broken frame. Truly, no one had used it for its intended purpose for ages, but it had become a toy repository and collection area for miscellaneous periodicals. In the end, we surrendered it to the more feral aspects of domestic life, but we needed people seating.

   The empty void by the picture window inspired me and I spent an entire afternoon tracking down an affordable replacement and I found one that was NEW. We have never had new furniture before, but always pre-owned. It doesn't make sense at this phase of life to put new furniture at risk in a house where if anything can happen, it will happen here first. This couch was new, and there was a store almost an hour away that had only two left if we could get there. It took legwork and phone calls and even being placed on hold and forgotten about to uncover this precious new affordable couch.

Then, the phone rang.

   As it does, so many times when I think life is predictable. When your husband works in a hospital, there is no predictable. When your phone rings at three in the morning it is not fear for the safety of a loved one that wakes you, but the firm assurance that a hospital floor is short staffed. You get used to celebrating holidays a day late or a day early, or sometimes simply without your husband present for days in a row. You rejoice when the overtime money comes rolling in and makes life more comfortable for a while. Then, as you are sitting down to supper, the phone rings and a friendly voice asks "Do you know whether your husband would be available to work tonight?" You grit your teeth and want to spat "NO! Why can't you leave us alone?" as if it were an investigative reporter calling and not some nice lady you send Christmas cookies to every December. 

   Besides, I love my husband's job. I'm proud that he is a Registered Nurse with a staunch work ethic. Even though it often steals our routine, our nights, and now my chance at a new couch. It's this thing you are immensely thankful for and despise all at once, like candy or Walmart.

   Here's something else I love. My Little Mister's honesty when I try something new in the kitchen and it doesn't quite cut it. Honestly, when I post his reviews, they are genuine and true.

   Last month for October I experimented with a recipe for a big pan of pumpkin cinnamon rolls. Everything went well, they smelled delicious, and then the taste test. They were...bland. Hardly any flavor. I knew it and tried to pass them off but Little Mister wouldn't even call them cinnamon rolls. He called them "dessert bread" and he was tired of them after two servings. I'm not even sure we finished them.

   I rarely post unless I have a recipe to share, but this month I'm sharing a very old recipe. German Nuss Printen (or Nuß Printen) is a traditional hard cookie made out of a gingerbread type dough, topped with hazelnut halves, and dipped in chocolate. This was risky as no one has made these Christmas cookies since my maternal grandmother, and even she didn't make them in her later years. The original recipe was translated by my mother on to some recipe cards, and still wasn't perfect, so this is an adaptation of my Grandmother's recipe.

   It is basically a spicy gingerbread dough with an old-fashioned German taste. The topping combination of chocolate and toasted hazelnuts is really something different. If you want a Christmas cookie that no one else is bringing to the exchange this year, this is your cookie.

German Nut Print Cookies 

1/2 stick of butter
4 ounces of molasses measured in a liquid measuring cup
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoon milk

In a saucepan, heat these slowly just to combine, and then allow to cool. When this mixture has cooled, add:
1/8 tsp. lemon extract

1/2 tsp. anise extract
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Stir to combine.

In a separate bowl sift:
1 and 1/2 cups flour

3 tsp. baking powder

Slowly add 2/3 of the flour mixture to the saucepan while stirring with a spatula. This will make a very sticky dough. Slowly add the remaining 1/3 of the flour mixture and with your spatula, shape the dough into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least three hours. 

Preheat the oven to 375.

Place the dough on a floured surface and, shape dough into balls approximately 1/2 inch in size. If the dough is still sticky, flour your hands so that you can work with it. Flatten the balls slightly with the palm of your hand and place on a greased cookie sheet. You can also make a few into rectangular shapes, which is the more traditional form.
Decorate with hazelnut halves. The hazelnuts will toast on the cookie as it is baking. Bake for 12 minutes. Allow cookies to cool completely before adding the chocolate coating.

For the chocolate coating, I placed half of a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips with 1/4 cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl and melted it in the microwave with frequent stirring until it was completely melted. My mother is sure that my Grandmother always used dark chocolate, which sounds preferable to me and more authentic. 

Traditionally, the entire top of the cookie is coated in chocolate, but I drizzled a few. Allow the chocolate to cool completely on the cookie.

Oh, and what did Little Mister say?

"They're good. Too crunchy. You might want to make them a little softer. Dad might like them."

This IS a crunchy cookie, so if you are like me and enjoy a softer cookie, you have been warned. 


  1. Monica these look so delicious! I'm going to have to try this some time. Our church ladies are having a Christmas party and we are supposed to bring cookies. I think I will make these. Thank you for the recipe.

    1. Regina, I would love to hear how they turned out for you if you make them. Tasting these again brought back a lot of memories and the craving for a hot cup of tea.

  2. I love your way with words, Monica! Also your general attitude towards life in whatever form it takes challenges me to do better in that regard. These cookies look exciting; I love traditional recipes that get passed down from generation to generation. As well as new recipes that get passed down and become traditions. I guess I like recipes, period. And stories, when they are masterfully told like yours are!

    1. Thank you, Rose! I like reading recipes too, and the stories that inspired them. It's always neat to hear the food traditions of other families. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I would really enjoy a new couch. We're still looking!

  3. I love old recipes. We always make a “gem” or cupcake recipe that we call Bradley Cupcakes- they are a very moist, spicy cupcake, and my great-great grandmother brought the recipe with her from the British Isles.
    I will definitely try these.

    1. Those sound very interesting. I love a moist cake of any kind. Do you frost them at all? Thanks for sharing your tradition!

  4. So sorry about the lack of a new couch. :( As far as the cookies, they sound like something my Dad would love. Where do you find hazelnuts though?

    1. Great question! I've had good luck finding them at Wegmans. You can get them in their bulk food section which is nice because you can buy just a few without having to buy a whole packaged pound. Whole Foods would probably have them, as well, also in a small quantity.

      Oh, and we just got a new couch. I'm so thankful and it feels like Christmas already.

  5. Nice picture of the cookies. Where's a picture of the NEW couch??

    1. At the time I wrote this post, there was no new couch. I don't know that I will bother to update it with a picture of a boring couch. :)


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