This Swedish pepparkakor recipe isn’t one that comes with many traditions. It was in fact created on the very first weekend of advent earlier this month after days of formula research and calculations.
We had just brought upstairs two cardboard boxes labelled hastily JUL 2015 [Christmas 2015] from our förråd [storage] and there were candles lighting our house to the most beautiful shade of gold; the sharp and intense smell of resin diffusing through every room, like a morning promenade through the forest.
I had just unpacked a small pink plastic basket, filled to the rim with pepparkaksformar [cookie cutters] that I’d found last summer at a garage sale at one of the houses we’d cycle by every morning.
After a quick run under warm soapy water, I left them to dry over my favourite torchon [kitchen cloth], the light grey one with nid d’abeilles [honeycomb] fabric.
Later that night, we used them to cut through the dough we’d made the night before. And as I pressed each and everyone of them through the softly spiced pepparkaksdeg, I couldn’t help but think about the many Christmases these cutters had known. And just like that, a tradition-less recipe actually perpetuated one that I suspect lasted many decades and created a new tradition for us to hold over the coming years.
Here is to the next first of advent!
I chose to make the lighter kind* of pepparkakor, one of many really. In some houses, the dough calls for whipping cream or baking powder. Muscovado sugar and treacle syrup. A pinch of cinnamon and a fat tablespoon of ground ginger.
That day, I made the pepparkakor that I’d knew I’d love. Light and crisp with just enough bite to hold well when dipped in a cup of coffee – something I can only warmly recommend.
I might try, next time I make a batch, to replace the caster sugar with light muscovado sugar or even brun farinsocker, a sugar that we have here in Sweden, and which is almost halfway between dark and light muscovado sugars; if you choose that road, you could most definitely substitute the caster sugar in the recipe below with 125 g dark muscovado and 100 g light muscovado.
I will also perhaps replace the golden syrup for chestnut honey, as a reminiscence of my childhood pain d’épices (which I also need to tell you about).
* Nowhere as light as they appear to be in the pictures I took here. Yes, I am still in dire need of figuring out this whole winter lighting thing.
Makes around 100 small biscuits.
75 g water
105 g golden syrup
225 g caster sugar (read note above)
175 g unsalted butter
1 heaped tbsp ground cinnamon
1 heaped tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
3/4 tsp ground cloves
480 g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
Bring the water, syrup, and sugar to the boil in a small pan. Off the heat, add the butter and spices, and allow to cool down to around 30-35°C.
In a bowl, mix the flour, bicarbonate and salt.
When the syrup has cooled down enough, slowly pour over the flour, and mix with a silicone spatula until a loose dough comes together.
Place the dough onto a large piece of clingfilm, and flatten it into a square using the palm of your hand. Cover tightly with clingfilm, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to a month.
When you’re ready to bake your pepparkakor, take out your dough from the fridge and leave it at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C.
On a slighty floured surface, roll the dough to 3-4mm thick and cut out into the desired shapes. If you wish to hang your pepparkakor, make sure to cut a small hole before baking them.
Arrange them onto baking trays lined with baking paper, and do not to mix the larger biscuits with the small ones as they won’t bake evenly.
Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of the pepparkakor, or until the edges start to turn golden brown.
When cooled down, decorate with royal icing if you wish, and store in an airtight container for up to a month.
More Christmas adventures in the north of Sweden on Instagram: #fannysjul <3