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.
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
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown soft sugar
1/4 cup molasses or black treacle
1 large egg plus 1 large yolk
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.
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.