Cooking with the Gals

Alyssa LaBelle & Susan Anderson

‘Tis the season of long papers and daunting finals, but when those are done, it is impossible to escape the holiday songs that have taken over radio stations and the lights shining from people’s houses. In our experience, the holiday season has always been the time of the year to walk home and find a freshly-baked batch of cookies, or to spend evenings rolling out batches of sugar cookies and gingerbread.

Our recipe this week produces one of the most addictive cookies we have ever tasted, as proven by the ability of a full batch to disappear within little more than a weekend, while being consumed primarily by four people. Making pepparkakor, or Swedish Ginger Snaps (if you prefer not to make up pronunciations for Swedish words), is one of the quintessential elements of a traditional Swedish Christmas. Swedes today have refrigerated pepparkakor dough the same way that we have chocolate-chip cookie dough and Pillsbury sugar cookie logs, but our stores don’t stock pepparkakor dough, so you’ll just have to follow our recipe.

We are not going to mince words: pepparkakor is not the easiest cookie to make. The dough can be obnoxiously sticky, and you need to roll it out rather thinly. But it’s worth it. The combination of spices, molasses and crunch will keep you nibbling throughout the day and night.

Ingredients

1 stick butter/shortening

? cup sugar

1 egg

? cup molasses

1 tsp. baking soda

? tsp. ginger

? tsp. cloves

? tsp. cinnamon

? tsp. nutmeg

? tsp. salt

2 ? cups flour (or more!)

1. Cream the butter and the sugar together. This means that instead of mixing sugar with melted butter, you mash together the ingredients slowly, until the sugar is no longer separate. We do not approve of melting the butter here.

2. Add the egg and molasses, and stir to combine with the butter-sugar mixture. You probably do not want to add an extra-large or jumbo egg, because they will make the dough too wet. We would recommend a medium egg, but if all you have are the giant varieties, crack the egg into a separate bowl, mix it up, and add only half to the pepparkakor recipe.

3. Stir in the baking soda, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, followed by the flour. If you used a larger egg, you will need more flour than 2 ? cups because the dough is only ready when it is no longer sticky. When you can make a firm ball of the dough, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least several hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

5. Rolling Cookies 101: Flour every surface that will touch your dough. This means that the board/mat/counter you’re rolling on should be lightly floured, the rolling pin (or large drinking glass if you don’t have a pin) should be heavily floured and the cookie cutters and spatula should be dipped in a small bowl of flour. You cannot roll out all your dough at once (trust us on this), so keep all the dough you’re not using at the moment in the refrigerator.

6. Roll the dough out until it is about 1/8″ thick. Very thin cookies are more traditionally Swedish, but they’re still great when they’re a little thicker and chewier. Cut the dough with cookie cutters of any shape, and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes.