Gingerbread Cookies (Pepparkakor)

Gingerbread Cookies (Pepparkakor)

Gingerbread (Pepparkakor)
During the Christmas season, these popular cookies can be found in every kitchen throughout Scandinavia. You can use light or dark brown sugar. I like Grandma's Molasses, the black strap does not have the complex flavors. I packed this recipe with plenty of spices so they are fragrant and have a nice ginger note at the end. Fresh spices will give your cookies the best flavor. Besides their irresistible spiciness, they keep for a long time; plus they improve with age. The dough needs to be really cold when you use it so you do not need to add much flour to keep it from sticking and making them less tasty. If it is too sticky it probably needs to be refrigerated again.
To make the really crispy gingerbread cookies you should use horn salt instead of baking soda. The initial smell of horn salt is a bit like ammonia and no matter how well you seal it it disappears with time. It completely and quickly disappears when the cookies are baked.
Serve with blue cheese and glogg.

1/2 cup brown sugar (light)
1/2 cup molasses unsulfured (light or Barbados)
1/2 cup unsalted European style butter, cut into 1/2 -inch cubes
1 egg plus one yolk, well beaten
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda or horn salt/Hartshorn/baker’s ammonia
2 teaspoons ground Chinese cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Optional toppings:
Sliced almonds
Pearl Sugar

1. In a 2-3 quart pot add the brown sugar, molasses, and butter cook over medium-high heat stirring regularly until the butter has melted and it comes to a boil. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir off and on until cool. (It’ll take about 1 hour.) On low-speed stir in the eggs and grated ginger.

2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper. Gradually mix into liquid ingredients on low to medium speed.

3. Using a rubber spatula scrape the dough on to waxed paper or plastic wrap. Shape into a flat disk and wrap well. Chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

4. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper or Silpat. Or butter and flour. Take half of the gingerbread and place it on an 18-inch long piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle flour on the top and the bottom of the gingerbread and roll out to 1/8-inch thick. (If you roll them ¼-inch thick they will be a bit softer and less crisp.) Check to make sure the dough is not sticking to the parchment paper then cut into desired shapes. Place on the prepared sheet pans ½ to 1-inch apart. If the dough becomes warm again then refrigerate for about 5 minutes, it will be easier to work with.

5. Top with decorations: dragees*, colored sugar, sliced almonds or pearl sugar. Bake large cookies for 7 - 8 minutes total at 375°F (350°F convection). Turn the pan 180° halfway through if using a nonconvection oven. For small cookies (1-inch) bake for 5 minutes. Let cool on the sheet pan for a couple of minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

The molasses gives it a more complex flavor, you can use dark Karo syrup as a substitute for molasses.
Sulfured molasses is molasses that has been treated with sulfur dioxide as a preservative. However, since the sulfuring process can leave the molasses with a strong pronounced chemical flavor and is less sweet. The organic brand of molasses I used is too bitter and overpowers the spices.
*Test bake a small piece of dough with the dragees you plan to use because some dragees will melt or dissolve when baked. If they do use a bit of icing to glue new dragees on when the cookie has cooled.

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Copyright © Julie Logue Riordan, Cooking with Julie