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pepparkaka (nordic gingerbread) dough

Recipe by
Annastiina Salonen
Vanhalinna, Varsinais-Suomi

This is the traditional Nordic gingerbread version known as pepparkaka or pepperkakor, meaning "pepper cake". Actually the main star of the spices on this recipe is neither ginger or pepper, but actually cinnamon. This dough makes highly aromatic Christmas cookies or houses which aroma only improves with age. It's a smell that the wintery memories are made of, my own at the very least. I have also written the recipe in Finnish, here:

yield 14 serving(s)
prep time 30 Min
cook time 12 Hr
method Bake

Ingredients For pepparkaka (nordic gingerbread) dough

  • 125 g
  • 100 ml
  • 150 ml
    granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp
  • 1 tsp
  • ½ tsp
  • 1 tsp
    cardamom (opt.)
  • 1 tsp
    bitter orange zest (opt.)
  • 1
  • 500 ml
    wheat flour
  • 2 tsp
    baking soda

How To Make pepparkaka (nordic gingerbread) dough

  • 1
    1. Bring the butter, molasses, sugar and the dried and powdered spices into a boil in a kettle. 2. Keep boiling the mix on a low heat for a few minutes, allowing it to caramelize slightly but not too long. If it keeps boiling too long then the result may be a dough that's difficult to handle with pieces of hard candy. 3. Cool the mixture down in a cold water bath (for example). Remember to mix it from the edges to the center so the temperature goes down evenly. 4. When the mix is still warm but slightly cooled down (around 60-70°C), add the egg and mix well.
  • 2
    1. Mix the flour and baking soda together. 2. Gradually add the flour mix into the caramel, knead them in if necessary. 3. Once the dough has cooled to a room temperature then put it into the fridge and let it settle there overnight. The dough will get a somewhat waxy texture. It can also be frozen.
  • 3
    Baking the dough: 1. Heat the oven to 200°C. 2. Dust a work surface with some flour, especially the center. 3. Use a rolling pin to make a thin sheet our of the dough and use either cookie cutters or self made patterns to cut shapes out of it. 4. The dough "breathes" in the oven. The cookies first rise and then resettle as flat which will only take a few minutes. They have browned slightly once they're done. If you're making a gingerbread house for instance and want some round walls then press the still hot walls against a bottle and allow them to cool down on it.
  • 4
    Decoration: Decorate the cookies as desired once they have cooled down, using royal icing, sprinkles, candies etc. However, notice that the cookies absorb the moisture easily so give them time to dry. If you pipe dots of the royal icing on the roof eaves of a gingerbread house and then quickly pull it off, you'll easily create "icicles".