The first Christmas I made pepparkakor, my son, who we call “the eating machine,” snuck past me and secretly devoured most of a heaping plate full. Probably about two dozen at once. So be warned. Baking these cookies is a risk. Well worth it though!
Surprisingly, I did not encounter these cookies as part of my Swedish family heritage. Rather, I discovered them through a children’s Christmas video featuring puppets. The character known as “Sunday School Lady” bakes them for a Christmas party. As soon as I heard about pepparkakor, I had to try them. And of course, I should have guessed that I would find another recipe in my aunt’s church cookbook. Swedes abound in that Minnesota town.
I’ve since learned that you can buy pepparkakor in fancy shapes at IKEA. However, I decided to make mine using the simple slice-and-bake method. That way I can make as few or as many as I
want can risk having around at a time. Freezing the dough before slicing provides security against inventory loss. Because my son is not the only one who struggles with self-control when homemade cookies are in sight.
Swedish Pepparkakor (Gingerbread) Cookies
- 1/2 cup of unsalted butter or coconut oil shortening at room temperature
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar or raw sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 cups unbleached flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves or allspice
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup powdered (icing) sugar, optional
- 2 to 3 teaspoons orange juice and/or almond milk, optional
- Beat together butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in egg, molasses, and maple syrup. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices, and sea salt. Add the dry mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and mix until an evenly blended dough forms.
- Divide the dough into two portions, wrap each in plastic wrap and chill for one hour. Roll each portion into a smooth log about 1-inch (2.6 cm) in diameter and freeze for one hour or longer.
- Slice frozen dough into thin discs (about 1/8-inch or 4 mm thick). Rotate the log after each slice to help the dough not to lose its round shape. Place discs onto parchment lined baking sheets, reshaping them into circular rounds as needed. Bake at 325 degrees F (170 C) for 8 to 10 minutes, or until middles are no longer very soft and bottoms are crisp but not dark. For crisp cookies, let pepparkakor cool on the warm trays.
- To decorate with icing, whisk together powdered sugar with orange juice an/or almond milk to form a thin, smooth icing. Drizzle over cookies or use a toothpick to dip in the icing to draw designs on some of the cookies. Store in airtight containers for up to one week.
Adapted from the Sunday School Lady
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