or..."The Seven Cookies of Christmas, 2009"
Cookie #1: Pepparkaker
It took spending six Christmases together for my husband to finally tell me that I was doing things all wrong in the baking department. And no, I wasn’t over-baking my fruit cakes or putting too many sprinkles on my cookies.
As it turns out, Norwegian tradition says that one must bake seven different types of Christmas cookies in order to have a proper Christmas. What a disappointment the past holiday seasons have been with only four or five cookie varieties. The good new is, I’ve been scouring my recipe box, latest issues of Gourmet Mag., and my greatest Goodwill score to date- a Scandinavian cookbook from 1968 with a terrific pickled herring photo on the cover to whittle down my list to the seven best. Luckily, with already one successful 7-cookie Christmas under my belt, this Christmas is guaranteed to be a good one.
With still a few weeks left before Thanksgiving, all you Americans reading this may think that I’m jumping the gun on my Christmas baking and planning. Of course, you will all have to remember that over here in Norway, the great day of thanks is not recognized and the stores have gone into full-swing with their red, gold, and silver decorations. I didn’t think letting you in early on my seven best Christmas cookie picks for 2009 could do any harm. Besides, we don’t need an excuse to start cramming our faces with all of that buttery, sugary, cinnamony, vanillay, chocolaty, almondy goodness. Am I right?
Now, if you break out the calendar, I think you’ll agree that today is an appropriate starting point for cookie number one. Seven weeks before Christmas...seven cookies for Christmas. It's simple math, my friends.
Up first is THE Norwegian Christmas cookie, which is also very popular in Denmark and Sweden, Pepparkaker (pep-ar-kak-aire). Learn to say it, learn to bake it, learn to love it. They're honest to goodness one of my all-time favorites. Not only do they last at least a month in a well-sealed container, they let you show off your cutest cookie cutters, and can even play double duty if you hang them up with a ribbon as decorations on your tree or throughout the house.
Pepparkaker. Scandinavia’s answer to ginger cookies. Crisp, spicy, and mighty cute. I guess it dosen’t hurt that they’re good too.
Check back each and every Sunday up until Christmas for the next 6 installations of this series!
Christmas Cookie #1
Norwegian Christmas Pepper Cookies
*This makes a VERY large batch. Try halving the recipe if you’re a pepparkaker virgin or baking for a small household
(The recipe for these came from a hilarious source, my “Norwegian for Immigrants textbook"! My teacher, Steinar, would be too, too proud if he only knew.)
1/2 cup + 1 T. (5 ounces/140 g) butter, room temp.
1/2 cup (115 ml) light corn syrup
1 1/3 cup (600 g) sugar
1/3 cup + 1 T. (85 ml) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder (add 1/2 t. more if you want a higher rise)
3 1/4 cup (450 g) All-Purpose flour
1. In a large bowl, mix the butter, syrup, and sugar together until well blended.
2. Stir in the cream, spices, baking powder, and flour. Mix until well blended.
3. Form dough into a round, flat, patty. Cover well with plastic and place in the fridge overnight (Or for at least 6 hours).
4. Place a little flour on a clean work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out until 1/10” thick (in other words, very, very thin). You may need to let the dough warm up a tad before doing this.
5. Using your favorite cookie cutters or just a small cup or bowl, cut out shapes from your dough. Make sure to collect your scraps and roll those out again. If you plan on using your cookies as decorations, cut out a small hole at the tops so that you can later loop a string or ribbon though.
6. Bake in a preheated oven at 350F/180C for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
7. Leave your cookies plain, or, decorate with icing, red hots, sprinkles, etc...