I was schooled by a friend in town here about what pepper nuts are and how to make them. Interestingly, they require neither pepper nor nuts. They are crunchy (like nuts) and spicy (like pepper). These teeny holiday treats are also more economical than nuts for snacking. Though I didn’t get my friend’s recipe, I researched recipes and then tried my own version that includes Chinese five spice powder.
The allure of five spice powder is that it contains anise, along with a blend of other spices. I confess that this was the first time I have used five spice in a recipe. When I lived in Asia, I often tasted it in savoury dishes. However, the first time I bought five spice powder was just recently, at Bulk Barn, a Canadian bulk foods store (which is one of my favourite places to shop).
Happily, the pepper nuts tasted just right. The anise flavour was present, but it did not overpower the other spices. The cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and five spice all play nicely together.Pepper nuts beg to be poured into jars for gifting. But don’t forget to reserve some for your own holiday gatherings. After tasting and enjoying these tiny cookies by the handful, I expect these will be appearing at our house for years to come. And frankly, I’ll take homemade pepper nuts over Chex mix any day!
Five Spice Pepper Nuts
- 1 + 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, plus 2 Tablespoons if needed
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/8 teaspoon each of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder (or allspice)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon hot water
- 1/4 teaspoon maple syrup (or honey)
- 1 cup raw sugar (or granulated sugar for a finer texture)
- 1/4 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
- 1 egg
- Beat together butter or coconut oil, sugar, egg, and maple syrup. Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water and add to the previous mixture. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cream of tartar, and spices. Stir the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture to form a firm dough.
- Wrap and chill dough for at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days.
- To form the pepper nuts, take a small handful of dough and roll it into a long, slender cylinder about 1 cm in diameter. Cut into small pieces about 1/2 cm thick and spread the pieces out onto a baking sheet (I prefer to line mine with baking parchment). Bake for 7 to 8 minutes at 350 degrees F (180 C).
- Let the pepper nuts cool on the baking sheet until crisp before transferring them to a container.
Adapted from this large batch recipe by Heavenly Homemakers
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