Ari’s Pick: 5-Star Pfeffernüsse

One of my favorite tastes of the holiday season

There are many things that folks look forward to this time of year at the Bakehouse. The super-tasty German Stollen, the wonderful Budapest-style Walnut Beigli, the incredibly popular Fancy Schmancy cookie classes, kits, and gift boxes. The Buche de Noel. My personal favorite though—packed in small colorful green and red Zingerman’s boxes (lovingly illustrated by Ian Nagy)—is easily missed if you stay on the “main road” of our best-known offerings: the Bakehouse version of the old German cookie known as Pfeffernüsse. 

The history of pepper in sweets

Two red and green boxes of Pfeffernüsse cookies with a stack of cookies next to them and a spool of red and white twine

The literal meaning of the name is “pepper nuts.” And they do have a wonderful texture that reminds me of the soft crunch of eating good quality nuts. The idea of seasoning sweets with pepper might sound odd today in 2022, but in ancient times pepper and assorted other spices were as likely to be used with sweets as it was with savories. Spices imported from afar, at great expense, were a way to show honor for one’s guests and to demonstrate abundance.

Nearly every traditional Christmas sweet in Europe is evidence of this tradition, such as the Sienese pan pepato—an ancient, pepper-spiked version of panforte. At the Bakehouse, we use the Balinese long pepper in the much-loved Gingerbread Cake. And Pfeffernüsse are probably my favorite of this sweet peppery tradition. By using the fantastic 5-Star Pepper blend we get from our friends at Epices de Cru, the flavor goes far beyond what one can get by using only mainstream black pepper. 

Pfeffernüsse at the Bakehouse

At the Bakehouse, we support the black pepper with a bit of nutmeg, cloves, anise, Indonesian cinnamon, and some Muscovado sugar. A touch of sea salt brings the flavors out beautifully. The Pfeffernüsse have a lovely balance of sweet and spicy, a wonderful, palate-awakening complexity, and a really fine long finish. If you’re serving the Pfeffernüsse on a platter, I recommend a fresh bonus grinding of good black pepper over the top—it adds a nice little aroma and flavor. A box of Pfeffernüsse makes a fun stocking stuffer. A wonderful treat sandwiched with vanilla gelato. Terrific with the Holiday Blend coffee or a shot of Espresso Blend #1. 


  • Sign up for Ari’s Top 5 enewsletter to hear more from Ari every week!
  • Want to make sure we have a box ready and waiting for you? Give us a call to reserve yours: 734-761-2095
  • If you’d like to bake your own Pfeffernüsse and fill your home with the yummy aroma of spices, you can find the recipe in our Fancy Schmancy Holiday Cookies cookbooklet.
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Ari Weinzweig
Co-Founding Partner at Zingerman's | + posts

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, 4 years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago. They opened the doors with 2 employees and a small selection of specialty foods and exceptional sandwiches.

Today, Zingerman’s Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has grown to 10 businesses with over 750 employees and over $55 million in annual revenue. Aside from the Delicatessen, these businesses include Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Coffee Company, Creamery, Roadhouse, Mail Order, ZingTrain, Candy Manufactory, Cornman Farms and a Korean restaurant that is scheduled to open in 2016. No two businesses in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are alike but they all share the same Vision and Guiding Principles and deliver “The Zingerman’s Experience” with passion and commitment.

Besides being the Co-Founding Partner and being actively engaged in some aspect of the day-to-day operations and governance of nearly every business in the Zingerman’s Community, Ari Weinzweig is also a prolific writer. His most recent publications are the first 4 of his 6 book series Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Series: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Part 1), Being a Better Leader (Part 2), Managing Ourselves (Part 3) and the newly-released Part 4, The Power of Beliefs in Business. Earlier books include the Zingerman’s Guides to Giving Great Service, Better Bacon, Good Eating, Good Olive Oil, Good Vinegar and Good Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ari regularly travels across the country (and world) on behalf of ZingTrain, teaching organizations and businesses about Zingerman’s approach to business. He is a sought-after Keynote speaker, having delivered keynotes for Inc. 500, Microsoft Expo Spring Conference, Great Game of Business Gathering of Games, Positive Business Conference at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, American Society for Quality (ASQ), and the American Cheese Society. Most recently, Ari and Paul Saginaw were invited to address an audience of 50,000 for the University of Michigan 2015 Spring Commencement.

One of Zingerman’s Guiding Principles is being an active part of the community and in 1988, Zingerman’s was instrumental in the founding of Food Gatherers, a food rescue program that delivers over 5 million pounds of food each year to the hungry residents of Washtenaw county. Every year Zingerman’s donates 10% of its previous years profits to local community organizations and non-profits. Ari has served on the board of The Ark, the longest continuously operating folk music venue in America.

Over the decades, the Zingerman’s founding partners have consistently been the recipients of public recognition from a variety of diverse organizations. In April 1995, Ari and Paul were awarded the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County’s first Humanitarian Award. In 2006, Ari was recognized as one of the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” by the James Beard Foundation. In 2007, Ari and Paul were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Bon Appetit magazine for their work in the food industry. Ari was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Cheese Society in 2014. And Ari’s book, Building a Great Business was on Inc. magazine’s list of Best Books for Business Leaders.

Notwithstanding the awards, being engaged on a daily basis in the work of 10 businesses and 21 partners, writing books on business and in-depth articles on food for the Zingerman’s newsletter, Ari finds time to be a voracious reader. He acquires and reads more books than he can find room for. Ari might soon find himself the owner of the largest collection of Anarchist books in Ann Arbor outside the Labadie collection at the University of Michigan library!

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