Day 7: Swedish Pepperkakor
Posted by loavesandstitches
Recently, the boys and I listened to Pippi Longstocking. To a parent, Pippi is kind of horrifying at worst and at best, just annoying. She is, however, a sympathetic character, having no parents to teach her manners and the general way of doing things, and she also has some redeeming qualities. She is kind at heart and fearless in the face of adversity or danger. Maybe she doesn’t do things the way they “should” be done, but she is trying her best.
I think I secretly identify with Pippi in a way. Growing up, I had to figure out a lot of things on my own and was not taught how to get along in this culture that was not my mother’s. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to walk between these two cultures while at the same time trying to figure out who I wanted to be. Thank goodness those days are behind me, not that I have everything figured out now or anything, but those were some turbulent years, to say the least.
Anyway, there’s a scene in the book that describes Pippi making dozens and dozens of cookies. She rolls the dough out on the floor, bangs them into the oven, and flour flies everywhere. While we listened to it, I imagined her making these Pepperkakor cookies.
Mildy spiced and unadorned, these cookies have really become a favorite in our house. Well, actually, they are more like the husband’s favorite. He likes them because they are not too sweet, not too spicy, not to buttery, and well, basically, they are plain good. They are the kind of cookie that you don’t feel bad about eating 2 or 3 or 8 of because they are not overpowering. This is not to say they are mediocre; they are just a wonderful everyday cookie.
I looked around at a lot of Pepperkakor recipes and I could not find one that is the same as the one I used. The recipe I use comes from a book by Pat Sinclair called Scandinavian Classic Baking It’s a cute little book and fairly inexpensive. If you are a fan of any type of Scandinavian baked good, you will like this book. One thing I like especially is that there is a photo of every recipe. My copy was a gift from a dear friend and has a nice autograph at the beginning.
We make these yummy cookies with a fun set of cookie cutters that I got from Ikea last year with different woodland creature shapes. This year, I also added an owl, a gnome, and a pig because, apparently, the most popular shape in Sweden is the pig.
I hope you will consider making these cookies. They are so much better than the ones they sell at Ikea and if you do them today or tomorrow, you will be just in time to celebrate St. Lucia Day, too! See my post about St. Lucia Buns here. I will be making those buns tomorrow for the husband, who, though he certainly does not look it, seems to be part Scandinavian.
Which brings me to my question today. What kinds of cuisines do you like that are not your own? I love foods from all over the world, but I especially love Middle Eastern Food and Japanese food. I think those are my favorites because I once lived in each of those places and the food is so closely linked to my memories there. Sadly, also because I used to live there, it is difficult for me to find restaurants that are “authentic” enough for me to enjoy. There really is no substitute for standing at a food stall in a foreign country eating something you have never had before and discovering that it is sublimely delicious.
Adapted from Scandinavian Classic Baking
makes about 6 dozen cookies, depending on the size of your cutters
17.5 ounces or 3.5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1.5 teaspoons ground ginger
.5 teaspoons salt
.5 teaspoons ground cloves
7 ounces or 1 cup granulated sugar
3.5 ounces or .5 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
8 ounces or 1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons molasses
Sift together the flour, spices, and salt. In a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer, cream together the sugars, butter, and molasses on medium speed until creamy. Add the egg and beat until well mixed.
With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture a little at a time. Mix on low until a soft dough is formed. Divide the dough into 4 pieces.
Roll out each piece of dough between two sheets of wax paper or parchment paper until it is about 1/8 inch in thickness. Slide the dough sheets onto a baking sheet and freeze or refrigerate until you are ready to bake. In the fridge, the dough will keep for several days. In the freezer, it should keep for a few months as long as you wrap it tightly in plastic wrap after it is frozen.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees or 325 if you have a convection oven. Take out the sheets of dough and let them warm up a bit while you wait for the oven and get your pans ready. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place one sheet of dough on your counter and peel off the paper. Place the paper carefully back on the dough and, making sure you grasp both pieces of paper on each side, flip the whole thing over. Peel of the other side of paper from the dough. Using your cookie cutters, cut out as many shapes as you can. If the dough is seems to hard, let it thaw a few more minutes. I usually cut shapes from the outside edges first because they thaw sooner.
Place the shapes on a lined pan 1-2 inches apart. Bake each pan for 7-9 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Transfer to racks to cool if you need the pan to bake more or just let it sit on the pan to cool.
You can decorate these if you like, but we prefer them plain. They will keep well in an airtight container for several weeks. They are excellent dipped in tea, which is how I have to eat them because I still cannot eat crunchy foods from going to the dentist a few weeks ago. They get soft in the tea, but don’t fall apart easily.