There is no other aroma that reminds me more of the festive season than freshly-baked pepparkakor – so moreish that you can never just stop at one! Pepparkakor are delicate, incredibly light, thin, crisp cookies – baked in hundreds in every Scandinavian home. These spiced, melt-in-the mouth biscuits are often shaped as hearts, pigs and goats. Mormor (granny) used to set aside a day to bake these fragrant gingersnaps to give to all the family in the festive season. I loved to assist her with the rolling and the cutting, they were one of many kakor that she baked in the month of December. However Pepparkakor are baked throughout the year in Sweden, but they’re especially popular at Christmas.
Originally these cookies were far spicier than they are today. Pepparkakor means pepper biscuits, not ingefärakakor – ginger biscuits, because they contained lots of pepper. Nowadays many modern recipes do not contain any pepper at all and neither does mine. In my method cinnamon and ground cloves dominate with background flavours of ginger and cardamom.
These delicate cookies are very simple to make but fresh spices are crucial to the taste, especially the cardamom. Buy the whole pods or the seeds and grind as you need them. Store small amounts if you don’t bake that often as stale spices loose their flavour. The dough itself takes less than half an hour to make, however it must rest in the fridge overnight before you can roll and stamp out the shapes. Pepparkakor should be very thin, on the other hand, if you wish to hang them on your tree, I would recommend making them a little thicker.
It might surprise you to know that these ginger thins are truly delicious topped with a slice of creamy blue cheese, such as gorgonzola or St Agur cheese. Try it, is so good!
Pepparkakor Swedish Ginger Thins
- Rolling pin and cookie cutters
- 250 g Butter, salted room temperature
- 1 Tbsp Cinnamon
- 1 Tsp Ground Cloves
- ½ Tbsp Ground Ginger
- ½ Tbsp Freshly Ground Cardamom
- 180 g Caster Sugar
- 40 g Golden Syrup
- 60 g Molasses (Black treacle)
- 75 mls Water
- 500 g Plain Flour
- 1 Tsp Bicarbonate of soda
- royal icing
- Blend the butter and all the spices in a large bowl.
- Heat the sugar, molasses, golden syrup and water until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool for 10-15 minutes and pour over the butter mixture. Cool to room temperature.
- Blend the flour and bicarbonate and the stir into the butter and sugar mixture. The mixture is fairly loose but it's now going to be refrigerated for roughly 8 hours, divide into 4 and wrap in clingfilm. This dough can be kept in the fridge for a week or frozen for up to a 3 months.
- Oven 190°C fan. Take only a small amount of the dough from the fridge and lightly flour your surface and roll out the dough 2mm thick. Stamp out your shapes with your chosen cookie cutters. With the help of a thin bladed knife, transfer them carefully to lined baking trays. Bake once you’ve filled a tray. Bake the biscuits for 5-6 minutes. They should start to feel hard around the edges as they cool and eventually become really crisp – they need to have a nice ‘snap’. Store in an airtight container for several weeks.
- If you would like to ice your biscuits, take 30g of royal icing and add a small water until you have smooth paste that you can pipe with. I make the icing in batches as it begins to harden fairly quickly.
- Plan a day ahead – the dough must rest in the fridge overnight.
- Take small amounts of dough out of the fridge at a time, roll and cut. At room temperature it is far more difficult to handle.
- When I bake these I roll thin ones for eating and slightly thicker ones for tree decorations.
- If you are good at icing make a thick royal icing and get your piping bag out. If you’re not so dexterous, just make a thinner icing and flick the fork to and fro above the biscuits.
- This recipe can be halved successfully.