Pepper cookies (or paprenjaci in Croatian) have been around the north of Croatia ever since the nineteenth century (some even say the thirteenth!). They are typically made for Christmas and are often given as edible souvenirs. The cookies are soft and chewy with an intoxicating smell of cinnamon and nutmeg; however, they deliver an unexpected spicy note thanks to their peppery nature. This recipe has been adapted from a traditional Croatian cookbook that was first published in Zagreb in 1876, and has been used in my family for generations. —empirical_kitchen
Test Kitchen Notes
These cookies were a wonderful surprise! They are perfect in all the right places; they're easy to make and have a wonderful, melty texture and complex favor profile. These cookies have it all AND a family history. They will now be part of my family tradition, and I can't wait to bake them again. They are a great after dinner cookie to have with a cup of coffee. —Annie stader
Beat butter and lard in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is smooth again. Beat in the egg and then add honey, walnuts, and zest, and beat until incorporated.
Sift the flour and mix it with the spices then add the mixture to the wet ingredients. Use a wooden spoon to bring everything together and then knead the dough until it becomes smooth and starts falling off of your fingers (this takes a while).
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll out the dough between 2 large pieces of plastic wrap to avoid adding more flour. Aim for 1/4-inch thickness and cut out the cookies using the cookie cutter shape of your choice (pepper cookies are usually stamped by using traditional wooden carved blocks, but I'm assuming you don't have those lying around the house).
Spread the cut dough on baking sheets and bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes until they start to brown slightly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool down.
If you'd like, you can decorate the cookies with royal icing.
Store the cookies in an airtight container for at least 2 to 3 days before serving. This allows them to soften and become truly irresistible.