The variety of festive baked good across different cultures is one of my favourite things about Christmas. A big Christmas tradition which I adopted from my lovely and super-Swedish friend Hannah is going to the Christmas Market at the Swedish Church.
Must have purchases are Cloetta Juleskum – Santa shaped marshmallows that have an incredible chewy texture and vanilla-strawberry flavour, an advent candle for me and lots of Glogg for my friends (sadly the almonds make it a big no for my nut-allergy). Then the first weekend of advent necessitates golden saffron buns studded with raisins, and the whole Christmas period has to involve as much Pepperkakor, or Swedish Gingerbread, as possible.
The first time I tasted Pepperkakor was in Sweden itself, after a long weekend involving forest walks, thick snow and lots of thermal underwear. It’s a very thin spiced gingerbread which is great dipped in your cup of tea or coffee. Make a big batch of dough and bake when you need it – the raw mix itself is also incredibly tasty!
The recipe is the one Hannah translated from Swedish for me and I’ve make it several times. The keep ingredient is the dark syrup – she assures me that golden syrup and treacle just aren’t good enough substitutes for the real thing. You can buy it online, or from your local Scandinavian food shop (if you are lucky enough to have one!).
Cut your Pepperkakor into whatever shapes you fancy, hearts and starts are pretty and festive, and I have a special place in my heart for teeny little gingerbread men and women an the odd moose! My cutters also came from the Swedish Christmas market, so seem particularly appropriate.
Recipe: Pepparkakor Swedish Gingerbread
This makes enough for several batches – if you want enough to fill one biscuit tin halve the recipe
200g Dansukker dark syrup
200g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
150ml double cream
600g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbinate of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
0.5 tbsp ground cloves
0.5 tbsp ground cardamom
- Melt together the butter and syrup in pan. Pour into a stand mixer with the cream, spices and bicarb and mix to combine.
- Add the flour until a soft dough is formed. It will be pretty soft but not sticky and leave a greasy residue on your hands. If in doubt try not to add any more flour.
- Cover in cling film and put in the fridge for at least 24hrs to let the flavours mingle.
- Take the dough out an hour before you want to start cutting out and baking your pepparkakor.
- Preheat the oven to 180C (fan). Roll the dough out very, very thin and cut out your shapes . Bake for about 5 mins until the biscuits have darkened. You want them to have a good snap when they cool. This will vary with your oven and the size of your biscuits. Play round until you get it perfect and stick with it!