Monday, 6 May 2013

pepparkakor - swedish ginger thins



If you've ever stepped into a supermarket in Sweden (the food section in your local Ikea will provide the next best alternative, albeit possibly with equine occupation) you may know about pepparkakor. 

If the name doesn't ring a bell, the description may - very thin and very crisp dark spiced biscuits, also known as ginger thins or ginger snaps. I picked up a couple of boxes when visiting Stockholm over Easter, one for home and one to take to work for colleagues. Turns out I ate most of both boxes as it's almost impossible to dull the come hither tones of their unique texture and mildly fiery flavour

They're not like any other biscuit I've encountered - incredibly light and completely void of moisture lending to their unmistakable crispness. And those who did get a chance to dip in a paw before I managed to scoff the contents of both boxes thoroughly enjoyed them for the same reasons.

Short of having to drive to Ikea in Croydon every time I wish to replenish the stock (which has long since dwindled to a painful pepparkakor void), I soon realised the only solution would be to find a recipe and make them (regularly) myself


After quite a bit of research, it turns out achieving the signature snap is a challenge. There are online stories of bakers making dozens of batches with varying degrees of ingredients, still unable to claim victory over the elusive and unique texture. Suggestions involve excluding any fat whatsoever in order to remove all moisture. Others say bake for longer at a lower temperature. Further advice speaks of using very strong and unfamiliar raising agents for the tough dough.

Well, I found a recipe and a process that read right to me. I tried it, and I nailed it first time. If you want to achieve the same texture and flavour as those boxed Swedish thins, use this recipe.


This recipe is from Cook's Illustrated Magazine (November 2011) and is an absolute corker. It is also incredibly quick and easy to make the dough - the majority of your time will be spent rolling and cutting out the individual biscuits. 


The recipe suggests this makes about 80 biscuits but I've ended up with double - I suspect I've rolled the dough half as thin as the recipe has. So  if you do in fact want 80, I would half the below ingredients. Or you'll end up with 160 biscuits filling up two large Tupperware boxes. Not a bad situation to be in, in my opinion. Keep them airtight and they'll last you for as long as two people with an average biscuit intake would need to eat them.

Pepparkakor

Makes 80 (or around 160 very thin ones as in the pictures)
2 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
170g unsalted butter
4 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp pepper
Pinch cayenne
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown soft sugar
1/4 cup molasses or black treacle
1 large egg plus 1 large yolk

Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt together in bowl. In the meantime, heat the butter in a pan over a medium heat until melted. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, swirling the pan frequently, until the foaming subsides and the butter is just beginning to brown. Turn off the heat.
Whisk in all the spices and then add the brown sugar and molasses to the butter mixture and whisk to combine until the sugar has melted and you have a smooth mixture. Add the egg and yolk and mix again with the whisk to combine. You should have a dark, sticky, smooth and glossy mixture.


Pour this mixture into your bowl of flour and combine with a spatula until you have a dough - don't over work it. Cover the bowl with cling film and keep in the fridge for the butter to firm, at least an hour.


Adjust your oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 130C (fan). Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper or silicone paper. Break off a portion of the dough and with your hands mound into a round and squash down. Take a rolling pin and slowly roll it out - if the edges are dry and crack, smooth them out with your fingers and continue rolling slowly. If any of the dough sticks to your rolling pin, just reverse the roll to remove it and join it back to the main mass. 

Roll them about as thin as 1mm - don't worry, they do rise a little in the oven. Use a small cookie cutter to cut out your shapes. Carefully lift each biscuit and place on your baking trays - leave a slight gap between each as they do expand slightly. You will fit about twenty per baking tray. Gather up the remaining dough and join with the rest of the mass. Break off another portion and repeat the process until all your dough is used up.


Place one tray on the upper rack and while it's baking, roll out and fill up your next tray. After 15 minutes or so, transfer the partially baked top tray to the lower rack and rotate 180 degrees. Place your second tray of biscuits on the upper rack. When your first tray is done, remove from the oven and transfer each biscuit to a cooling rack. Bring the top tray down to the bottom shelf, and continue this rotation until you've cooked all your biscuits. The biscuits are done when they are hard to touch and just darkening around the edges - around 15-20 minutes.

Tip
 The dough can be refrigerated for up to two days or frozen for up to one month if you want to get ahead. Let the dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before shaping. Let frozen dough thaw overnight before proceeding with the recipe. 


Settle down on a comfy arm chair in the evening with half a dozen thins, a glass of cold milk and a good read. I'm sold. 


Afiyet olsun.

27 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for such a wonderful recipe. We omitted the cayenne pepper and cut them using a little gingerbread man cookie cutter, and they turned out perfect! Your research to find such a great tasting Pepparkakor has definitely paid off! You're onto a winner with this recipe!

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    1. So fantastic to hear Josie! I haven't made these in a while - think I will need to rectify!

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  2. Thanks for this fantastic recipe and helpful intro! Was looking around for recipes and few were so descriptive. Mine worked out really well, addictively yummy! I made them with a star cookie cutter for a festive twist. One tip I have is to roll the mixture directly onto your non-stick baking sheet to avoid having to lift and transfer them individually from surface to sheet. In other words, cut out a piece of your baking paper to the size of your baking tray and place on a flat surface, then roll the mixture onto the sheet and cut your shapes, pulling away the extra dough... and finally lift the sheet with biscuits and put it back on your baking tray ready for baking. This cuts out the need to lift your floppy unbaked biscuits from your work surface to your baking sheet - my little stars were falling apart and losing they're shape when I was trying to lift them at the beginning!

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    1. That's great to hear, and thank you for the tip! :)

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  3. Can I just double check - is it 4 tablespoons of ginger??

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    1. Yes that's correct. 4 tablespoons of ground ginger that you buy in a spice jar. You'll find it with all the other spices in a supermarket.

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  4. Ok - thanks :) I thought 60g seemed like a lot but I'm looking forward to tasting them! :)

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  5. Hey! Could you give me a hint how much a cup means? I mean, gramms. It is misleading for me soemtimes. Thanks! Otherwise... the recipe sounds brilliant!

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    1. It will vary depending on the ingredient. So half a cup of flour won't weigh the same as half a cup of nuts, for example. Just take a standard coffee mug and use that as your cup measurement, you'll be fine :)

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    2. FWIW in American recipes they like to measure things by volume, rather than weight. It makes sense, because it's quicker. 1 cup is 1/2 an American pint, or 8 fl oz, which is approx 235 ml, (though I don't think you'd need to be that precise in this recipe).

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  6. Those look delicious. I would want to get them as light and crispy as possible. I like ginger but it's been awhile since I have made cookies with ginger or any other light, crispy dessert with that ingredients. Ginger is good during winter too for keeping you warm.

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    1. Did you make them? How did they turn out?

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  7. i can't wait to try this!!! sounds good to me, i'll let you know how i get on.

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    1. Great Noel, I hope they turn out wonderful!

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  8. Leyla - these cookies are absolutely amazing. Thank you so much for the recipe. I find they are even better than the current Ikea cookies. :) I've also made them without the ginger (blasphemy, I know) for my partner who can't have ginger and they were fabulous! Molasses thins :) He loves them. This recipe is a staple in my recipe box now. Thanks again!

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. That is so fantastic to hear! That reminds me, it's been too long since I last made them - must rectify! :)

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  9. Made these for a Christmas party last weekend and they were a big hit - only used half the dough, and I have the remaining batch in the oven now - thank you for such a fantastic recipe! :)

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    1. How fantastic! Thanks for letting me know Chris. That reminds me - must make a batch myself soon.. :)

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  10. I just tried this recipe and these cookies are PERFECT! My first round ended a little burnt (because my oven is very old, and inaccurate, plus I had to convert the temperature to Fahrenheit, so it was set just a few degrees high anyway) so I cut the cooking time to just 15 minutes and flipped them around after 7.5. I probably won't end up with a full 80, but that's partly from rolling them a little thick and partly because I've already lost count of how many I've eaten!

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    1. That's awesome! So glad to hear :)

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  11. David: Henley-on-Thames14 December 2015 at 09:47

    I miss my regular trips to Sweden when I bought pepparkakor each time by the tin. So I searched for a recipe and liked the look of this one the best and the very favourable comments. The problem I have is that everyone finds them too delicious and morish that they're gone to quickly. I'm now making my third batch in 10 days. Now cutting into Christmas trees, bells and stars as well as the round shapes. Great Christmas gifts but why would you want to give them away?

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    1. Hi David, you're right - they are great Christmas gifts. And you're also right that they're so moreish! So glad to hear people are enjoying them :)

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  12. Thank you for sharing! The cookies turned out fabulous!

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    1. That's wonderful to hear! Thanks for letting me know :)

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  13. We were at IKEA yesterday and could not justify paying $16 for a small package of these cookies. I plan on making these for my brother and hope he likes them just as much if not better.

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    1. That's excellent Amy. I bet you will love them!

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  14. As you said, it's a very difficult biscuit to make but no effort is too much once you nailed it. I've done it, i got my own recipe and a brand. I bake and sell pepparkakor in Peru. :D
    Everybody love pepparkakor!!!

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