Spicy memories

Gingerbread biscuits are probably the most popular Christmas cookies in Norway. They are called “pepperkaker”, i.e. pepper biscuits, although many recipes do not include pepper but rather other spices such as ginger, cinnamon and cloves. From very young age, kids help baking “pepperkaker”. They make figures out of the dough using gingerbread shapes and decorate them. They also build fancy houses. Bells cannot ring out for Christmas without gingerbread. In her lecture at the Nobel price conference, the Nobel prize laureate in Physiology or Medicine, Marie-Brit Moser, showed a short film about how smell – that of gingerbread – can trigger memories.

This is what Christmas is about. Traditions and memories. Celebrating in the darkest winter nights. In my childhood, there was no gingerbread. Thanks to my friend Anne, I newly discovered the perfect flavour combination between gingerbread, Stilton and Port wine. This has now become a tradition at home.

One can find may recipes for gingerbread on Internet. This one is however very special. It was given to me by my Swedish friend Anna.

Photo: Adresseavisen

When Anna, archaeologist, is not making astonishing discoveries such as digging out the skeleton of a Birkebeiner in a well to confirm the Old Norse kings’ saga  or excavating St. Clement’s Church, the oldest church in Trondheim , she bakes the most tasteful pepparkakor (gingerbread in Swedish). About her recipe, she tells:

“This recipe is good because the dough does not attach to the baking surface and it is the right spice flavour for the gingerbread.”

Ingredients for a large portion (around 500 cookies)

— it is easy to divide by 3 as 1 tablespoon (tbsp) contains 3 teaspoons (tsp), so you can reduce 1 tbsp to 1tsp.

  • 1 l sugar
  • 3 dl water
  • 1,5 dl syrup (light or dark)
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1,5 tbsp ground cloves
  • 1-2 tbsp ginger
  • 500 g butter
  • 2 tbsp baking soda
  • 3 l flour

It is a good idea to use measuring spoons.

Mix sugar, syrup and spices in a pan.

Warm to 80° C.

Add the butter.

Stir until the butter has melted and the mixture is cold.

Dissolve the baking soda in warm water.

Add the baking soda to the spicy mixture.

Add the flour.

I recommend sifting the flour to avoid lumps.

 

Roll the dough into a log. Pack it in a plastic foil.

Keep the dough cold in the fridge for a while, so it does not stick when rolling to make cookies. Anna recommends one night in the fridge, but I found out that the dough gets as hard as stone. One hour or two is enough.

Cut a piece of the dough. Keep the rest in the fridge. Roll out in a thin layer – around 2 mm.

Make figures using gingerbread shapes.

Bake at 200 ° C around 7-8 minutes.

Watch out. The cookies should not burn!

Let the cookies cool on a grid.

Keep the cookies dry in a cookie box.

 

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