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Pepparkakor: the irresistible Swedish ginger snaps
If you’ve ever stepped into a supermarket in Sweden (the food section in your local Ikea will provide the next best alternative) you may know about pepparkakor. They’re a much loved Christmas cookie, but I like to enjoy them all year.
If the name doesn’t ring a bell, the description will – very thin and very crisp dark spiced ginger 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 for a gift. Turns out I ate most of both boxes as it’s almost impossible to ignore their unique texture and mildly fiery flavour.
They’re not like any other cookie 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 every time I want to re-stock, I soon realised the only solution would be to find a recipe and make them (regularly) myself.
The elusive pepparkakor ‘snap’
After quite a bit of research, it turns out achieving the signature snap in this Christmas cookie favourite 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 the ginger biscuits 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 ginger 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 ginger biscuits.
The recipe suggests this makes about 80 biscuits but I end up with double – I suspect I roll 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.
A Recipe For Pepparkakor, Or Swedish Ginger Snaps Cookies
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
How to make pepparkakor dough, the perfect Christmas cookie
Rolling out pepparkakor ginger snaps – why not make gingerbread men!
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. You can choose whatever you want – simple circles, stars, or even gingerbread men.
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.
Baking pepparkakor Swedish ginger biscuits
Settle down on a comfy arm chair in the evening with half a dozen pepparkakor, a glass of cold milk and a good read. I’m sold.
Have you ever made pepparkakor and if so, how did it go? What’s your favourite type of Christmas cookie? Would you use gingerbread men cutters for this, or another shape? If you’ve tried making these ginger things, let me know in the comments below!