Christmas and Winter Holiday Cookies: Pepparkakor (Gingerbread Cookies)

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Pepperkaker (Norway), Pepparkakor (Sweden) has become my absolute favorite version of the ubiquitous Christmastime cookie - known as Gingerbread here in the United States.

Gingerbread cookies, loved throughout northern Europe and north America, often are slightly unique to the country or region in which they are baked. So there is still much to explore and discover about "Gingerbread cookies". But for this post, I am focusing on recipes for gingerbread cookies from Sweden and Norway because for me personally, I have found them to be exactly what I have been searching for -  perfectly tender and deliciously spicy cookies.

I should point out that one cookie in the group shared below actually does not contain even a whisper of ginger! But it is named Pepperkaker!! One cookie is hands down the best gingerbread cookie recipe I have found yet, but I have included a very very good substitute for those of you who might not be comfortable with leaving the dough out at room temperature overnight. And one has become my most favorite Christmastime cookie treat!

One recipe calls for pepper! And it is a wonderful addition. Some recipes call for molasses and brown sugar to provide sweetness while others call for corn syrup. Eggs are added to most doughs but left out of one and replaced with cream. A bit of citrus peel is added to one. Cinnamon does not make an appearance in one cookie at all!!

So! I am not entirely sure that Pepparkakor is supposed to refer to strictly a gingerbread cookie. There seems to be a great variety in recipes by that name - and all I can say about that is - all hail to variety because there are some pretty wonderful cookies here using the name "Pepperkaker/Pepparkakor!

Europeans embraced ginger once the gnarled Asian root was introduced to them at the beginning of the 11th century. Ginger provided both an exotic flavor profile in their cooking and baking as well as being known for it's use in treating several minor ailments. We owe a huge debt to German bakers who perfected gingerbread to the point that it could be used as a structural material - fanciful villages of gingerbread houses ensued and are their legacy to all of us!

And once the Germans shared their secrets with the Scandinavians, the groundwork was in place for what is today, the largest gingerbread village in the world in Bergen, Norway. Take a moment to visit (link here)! You can not come away without feeling at least a little Christmas Spirit! You can find more shots here on Flickr!

Most of the recipes shared below are kid friendly! Easy to roll and cut and yummy to eat. Unlike Speculaas and Pfeffernusse, Pepparkaker can be eaten the moment they have cooled. No storing while flavors develop. However, all of these cookies can be stored for at least a couple weeks! The only down side it that once the dough is mixed, there IS a "chilling" period to wait through, so you might want to stir up the dough the night before or morning before an afternoon of Christmas cookie baking.

And for busy, busy moms who just don't have time for all that rolling and cutting, the recipe for "Astrid's Norwegian Pepperkaker" is simply mixed, shaped into a roll, stored in the fridge or freezer and sliced and baked when ready! In fact, although I have not tried it, I am pretty certain that Jenny's Pepperkakor would work well as a slice and bake cookie as well.

 

RECIPES FOR PEPPERKAKER/PEPPARKAKOR

 

Luciapepparkakor (gingerbread cookies) : recipe here

LuciaDayShot

In Sweden, children serve their parents gingerbread cookies, saffron buns and coffee on Lucy Day (December 13th). Hence the name - Luciapepparkakor!

This recipe originally appeared on a site that has disappeared. Phyllis has actually baked Luciapepparkakor with her children and shared the recipe on her blog Household Ways.

Notes: This is hands down the very best gingerbread cookie I have ever baked! Many gingerbread cookies are delicious and perfect for a day or two and then seem to become - sort of tough/chewey. This texture does not work for me - so I have been on the hunt for a perfect gingerbread cookie for years!

This is it!!! Who knew - I should have been looking for Pepparkakor recipes!!!

What I love most about this cookie is that it is delicious! AND it doesn't become tough/chewy. AND the dough can be re-rolled at least three times and the cookies will not be tough.

I like my gingerbread a little on the soft side, but to insure a crisp cookie, roll thin and bake a little longer. Just watch closely - there is a fine line between soft and crisp!!!

Luciapepperkaker baking

Luciapepparkakor is so much fun to watch bake - better than watching shrinky dinks! The dough is rolled quite thin, but once it sits in the oven a bit it puffs up to several times it's original thickness. And then, just before baking is done, all those puffy cookies collapse and are thinner than they were before going in the oven! It is quite a show and will keep kids occupied while they wait!

I found the mixing quite different than the usual "creaming wet ingredients/adding dry ingredients" method - this cookie is basically made in a saucepan! 

What don't I love? Honestly - that business of leaving the cookie dough sitting out at room temperature overnight. But Phyllis has not found this to be a problem and pointed out that most kitchens are quite cool in the northern hemisphere during December. I hadn't considered that, but she is right!!!

 I have actually made these cookies three times and had no ill effects from leaving the dough out; however, I have found an alternative recipe that "chills" IN the fridge overnight that is very, very close to this one and am shareing it next! 

Another thing I should mention is that this is a very, very tender dough to work with and requires a light hand while rolling and cutting. So I have been reluctant to offer it as a "kid friendly" dough. However, Phyllis assures me that she considers it very "kid friendly". While she found the first roll to be indeed a bit tricky, the additional flour absorbed during the first roll makes the dough perfect for subsequent rolls. I had the same experience.

Despite these "don't loves", these delicious Luciapepparkakor are now so much a part of my Christmas celebration that the cookies have their very own designated cookie jar!!!

 

Jenny's Pepperkakor : recipe here

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Although this recipe calls for the standard "creaming wet/add dry ingredients" mixing method and molasses is used in place of corn syrup, it yields a gingerbread cookie that is remarkably similar to the Luciapepperkakor. Once mixed, the cookie dough is chilled for a few hours in the fridge, which some moms may find preferable.

Believe it or not, I actually found this recipe on the back of a box of pepperkakor purchased at Ikea!! Certain to my core that there was no way in the world the recipe could be on line, but secretly hopeful nonetheless, I typed it into google and - there it was!

If you haven't used vinegar in your cookies - don't be surprised by it's presence here. King Arthur Flour recipes for sugar cookies often call for vinegar! It produces wonderfully light, tender cookies. And I am thinking perhaps it compensates in this recipe for the bit of fermentation that takes place during the overnight at room temperature rest called for in the Luciapepperkakor..

After chilling, the dough is lovely and silky and soft but rolls and cuts beautifully.

What do I love? This gingerbread cookie is second only to Luciapepperkakor! Delicious! And it stays tender.

And although the recipe calls for very a thin roll for a crisp cookie, I roll mine to a smidge over 1/8th" and bake just till they are firm to the touch.

What don't I love? NADA! Cookies are a big hit!!! And finally I can stop looking for the perfect gingerbread cookie! I have TWO!

 

Christmas Pepperkaker (Julpepparkakor)from the "Great Scandinavian Cookbook" by Beatrice Ojakangas : recipe here

Norwegian Pepperkaker Advent Calendar

I first found this recipe in an issue of Viking Magazine - and now I have Beatrice Ojakangas' book! And finally - I have managed to locate it on line!

This is the cookie I used for my Norwegian Cookie Advent Calendar last Christmas and has become a must bake favorite Christmas cookie!! But I don't quite view it as a "gingerbread cookie" - perhaps it is the heady touch of citrus added to the dough. Overall the ingredients are very similar to Luciapepperkaker, but this cookie seems lighter and more well - intoxicating somehow!

I am sure that is in part due to the addition of a teeny tiny bit of Fiori de Sicila from King Arthur flour in place of the grated orange peel called for in the recipe. Spice and orange are after all a perfect marriage. The flavoring must be used sparingly or it will overpower - but just a touch (a scant 1/4 tsp. in this recipe) and you will be amazed! You can get your own bottle here.)

Notes: What do I love? Besides the taste and texture? These are really pretty cookies! As you can see above. And they hold up very well over time. Remaining tender and soft and delicious even after hanging in the kitchen on ribbons as an edible Advent Calendar for a month!

I am planning to make another Pepperkaker "countdown calendar" this year; however, I am thinking of a 12 day calendar beginning on Lucy Day, December 13th and ending December 24th, Christmas Eve. Here is the link to how I made my calendar last year. (I didn't glaze my cookies, but there is no reason why you can't!)

Norwegian Pepperkaker Advent Calendar

The dough is very kid friendly to roll and cut, and actually seems a little milder in flavor than a typical gingerbread cookie. I think most children would love these! Order a reindeer, and Dala and Gnome just for their Pepperkaker!! Cookies cutters can be ordered here.

There is nothing not to love about this cookie!!! Thank you Beatrice Ojakangas!

 

Astrid's Norwegian Pepperkaker from Ekte Norsk Jul Vol 2 by Astrid Karlsen Scott ; recipe here

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I found this recipe on line while searching pepperkakor/pepperkaker. I also found, and tried, a few others that have been disappointing. Those will never be named!!

But this one!!! What an amazing cookie!!! And so completely different from most other cookies carrying the name "pepperkaker"! Trust me - make this cookie!!!

Pepperkaker

I was testing Astrid's Pepperkakor and Jenny;s Pepperkakor on the same day, and shot this image to show how completely different the cookie doughs appear.

The closest thing I have ever tasted that was similar to Astrid's Pepperkaker was a cookie called a "white cookie", but those were - well - quite boring. Not so this one!!! It is seasoned using ground pepper, cardamon and cinnamon. The fresh dough taken from the fridge smells a lot like Christmas heaven and the flavor of the baked cookies just gets better and better with age - at our house that would be approximately 4 days!

No ginger in this Pepperkaker! No molasses or corn syrup! And no eggs! Cream is used instead of eggs.

What do I love about this cookie? Well for one thing, my chocolate chip, lebkuchen, chocolate rum ball, marzipan loving husband is nuts about them!!! This was an unexpected surprise as I was intending to eat these all myself! But it is always great to make something my sweetie enjoys so much.

The mixture of pepper, cardamon and cinnamon is really quite lovely and although the taste of the pepper is not apparent, a pleasant, warm after taste of pepper rests briefly on the tongue!

These are great keepers, and as I said above - the flavor just gets better and better.

The dough is quite soft (but not sticky) when first mixed, but becomes perfect for slicing once it is formed into a roll and is chilled in the fridge. Or if you prefer, pop the cookie dough rolls into the freezer to use another time. Let the roll warm a little and slice and bake.

Truth be told, I have not been much of a fan of slice and bake cookies because the cookies usually turn out kinda - weirdly shaped - and I like round cookies! These cookies spread out during baking into beautiful round cookies. 

Astrid's Norwegian Pepperkaker

What don't I love? These are not the most beautiful cookie - quite plain looking so I suggest a nice sprinkle of sugar crystals before baking. It is just amazing what a sprinkle of sugar crystals can do for a cookie!!

Be sure to pop over here where you will find more tasty recipes for cookies that say Christmas!   (Next month: three killer Biscotti!!)

Oh wow, now I really long for

Oh wow, now I really long for December! :)

And it's Pepparkakor in Swedish btw. One pepparkaka, many pepparkakor. :)

XOXOXOXO  Hanna for the

XOXOXOXO  Hanna for the clarification on the Swedish version of Pepparkakor!!!  I have seen so many different ways to spell this word my head spins!!:-)  Now that I have it on good authority, I will make the changes in the text!!  Thank you so so much!

Off to see the gingerbread

Off to see the gingerbread village in Norway now!
Thanks for the link!

Be sure to visit the Flickr

Be sure to visit the Flickr site as well.  You will get a much better view of the individual houses.

Okay. I can't stand it!

Okay. I can't stand it! Even though I also love softer cookies I just want to make all of them. Cathie loves pepper, so she'd be all for those. And I've heard before the vinegar is a great addition to some cookies. I've never used it.

Thanks for your exhaustive research. I'm printing this out. I have plenty of toner.

Chris,  I really do think

Chris,  I really do think both you and Cathie will love Astrid's Pepperkaker.  Let me know!!!

I am so glad to see so many

I am so glad to see so many recipes for one of my favorite cookies! I especially appreciate the Scandinavian derivations. I'll be baking for Christmas soon enough!

I agree Julie!  Favorite!!

I agree Julie!  Favorite!!  Why has it taken me so many years to discover Pepperkakor?

The Jennys Pepperkakor are

The Jennys Pepperkakor are dee-lish-ioso! I got four trays of Autumn leaves, nuts and forest animal shapes out of this mixture (and a few angels for the Michaelmas Feast of All Angels too!)My whole house smells Heavenly. Thanks Pam :)

Gill!  You absolutely made my

Gill!  You absolutely made my day!  Hahaha!  You and I were sort of on the same wavelength - that is Jenny's dough in the About Me image for fall!  I cut mine in both leaf and Halloween shapes.  But what a great idea to remember for next year to celebrate Michaelmas!!! Thank you!

And I am so glad you liked the cookies!  Try out Astrid's recipe sometime too!

Wonderful post, Pam! Thank

Wonderful post, Pam! Thank you so much for inviting us all into your kitchen again for some fun Christmas baking! I'll definitely be adding Astrid's recipe to my cookie list!
Big hugs,
Arielle

Arielle, I thought of you

Arielle, I thought of you often while baking the cookies in preparation for this post.  Thinking of you baking trays of cookies for your neighbors on Okinawa who probably never before had someone baking them Christmas Cookies to enjoy with their Kentucky Chicken and decadent cake at Christmas!

What a lovely gesture to share this tradition in your adopted country.  I am pretty sure Astrid's cookies will go over big!!!

Hmmn, those do look

Hmmn, those do look delicious! My children have their Autumn Holiday this week so I may well mix up a batch to test (!) and use Autumn leaf and forest animal cookie cutters. Oh yes, just off to clear a space in the kitchen and we'll get right to work! Thanks Pam :) Gill.

Thanks for the mention. I do

Thanks for the mention. I do love those cookies, and I first found the recipe through you. :)

You are welcome, Phyllis!!!

You are welcome, Phyllis!!!  I am just so happy you have posted the recipe so I can share through Household Ways. And I very much appreciate your insight on leaving the dough sit overnight at room temperature and how well the children were able to manage the rolling and cutting.

So - thank YOU for all your help.

Kathryn!  How many spellings

Kathryn!  How many spellings are there for this word, anyway?  

I thought of you a gazillion times while writing and baking!  It is time to bake some for Ryan this year.

Ahhh, I adore pepparkakor!!!

Ahhh, I adore pepparkakor!!! I used to make it every Christmas...but I've missed a few years now. :-/ My mom always has the store bought variety on hand though, and we always have them year-round! :)

I can't believe December is only a couple months away!!!

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