Monday, December 14, 2009

Piparkakut Finnish Ginger Cookies

Crispy, thin, spicy, addicting, hard to pronounce.

Piparkakut are more than ginger cookies. Really a full on spice explosion in a thin, modestly sweet, crispy cookies. I came across them when Ava, a co-worker, baked a batch of her Finnish grandmother's recipe. I was delighted when Ava passed me her recipe, now misplaced. This version is based on Axis of AEvil, which was very considerately typed out from a Finnish cookbook Kotiruoka and my memory of Ava's. Did I mention Piparkakut are my number #2 favorite Christmas cookie? #1 being jam thumbprints.

Piparkakut

2 sticks plus 2 tblsp of unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup molasses
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
(I use fresh cardamom from about 25 pods that I grind up with the black pepper in my coffee grinder)
1/2 tsp fresh finely ground black pepper
3 tsp ginger powder
2 tsp orange zest
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
5 1/4 cup flour, or more

1 egg white
water
raw sugar for decorating

Heat butter, sugar, molasses, spices, and orange zest over medium heat. Stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and cool to room temp. Add the sugar and spice mix to a mixing bowl with eggs, salt, and soda. Beat for a minute until combine. Add half of the flour and mix until barely combine. Add the rest of the flour mixing until combine. Dough should be sticky but manageable. Add more flour if dough is too wet. Cover with wax paper and chill for 8 hours. I froze mine the weekend before I wanted to roll and shape my cookies. Splitting up the steps lets me focus on keeping my piparkakut consistently thin and pretty.

Christmas Camel Cookie! So dang cute. Eat it up.

When ready to roll, shape, and bake cookies cut the chilled dough into quarters. Preheat the oven to 350. Make sure your rolling surface is clean. Sprinkle flour over surface, rolling pin, top and bottom of dough. Roll dough 1/16 -1/8th of an inch thick. Do not be daunted by the task of rolling the dough thinner than the average cookie. Roll the dough, turning one quarter circle after every 8 or so rolls. As you turn, spread some extra flour under the dough. By the time the dough is extra thin it will be well floured on the bottom, and will not to stick, making cookies easier to cut. I also use a metal spatula on the last few turns to help move it.

Cut out fun shapes with your cookie cutters. A scalloped circle is very tradtional, as is a "Christmas pig" in Scandinavia. I like my camel, reindeer and tree shapes, pretty. This dough will not puff up much when it bakes, so if your cut-outs are deformed, they will look that way baked. Be gentle.

Place shapes on a greased cookie sheet about 1/4 inch apart. I like to decorate the tops with sugar. Lightly beat 1 part egg white to 2 parts water with a fork to make a glaze that helps the sugar adhere. It also adds a sheen to the cookies. Evenly and lightly glaze cookies using a pastry brush. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cookies will begin to darken around the edges when ready. Let cool 1 minute on sheets, and transfer to cooling racks with a spatula. Decorate with icing if desired.

I rolled all of my dough very thin and got about 14 dozen cookies. It took about 3 hours to roll, shape, sugar, and bake. Exhausting. A team of cookie helpers is suggested, especially if you are decorating. Store in metal tins. Recipients will love you all winter long

Notes About This Version:
-- Fresh Cardamom has a big 3D flavor that comes through when baked. I suggest using it.
-- I believe that black pepper was in Ava's version, so here it is. Do not be shy adding it, but be certain it grinds finely, chunks of pepper in your teeth aren't very xmas-y.
-- Other spice reductions have been made to accommodate pepper and cardamom.
-- The site I grabbed this recipe from mentions that the orange peel is not from Florida oranges, but Moroccan oranges. Good luck finding that in the states, and email me if you do. I used a Florida orange.
-- The recipe calls for corn syrup. I am told that in sometimes carob syrup is used. I think corn syrup has a place, but not in a cookie. Molasses has more flavor. Baking in Scotland a few years ago, I substitute treacle syrup for both. How about that?
-- Similar versions of this recipe (Moravian Cookies, Swedish Thins) list vegetable shortening instead of butter. Probably because hydrogenated oils (were partially hydrogonated now fully hydrogenated) are firmer, and make the sticky dough more manageable. I do not trust that stuff.
-- Other versions suggest rolling out on a flour/rolling cloth. Sounds great. I don't have that, though I wonder if it isn't the same as canvas. Use plenty of flour.
-- Piparkakut are lightly sweetened. Perfect for decorative sugars and icing. I don't like to mess with icing as it makes them harder to store, and there are soooo many.
-- These thin crisp cookies crack more easily. Broken reindeer piparkakut taste the same as whole, but be aware these will not ship as well as other cookies. This can be avoided by using smoother shapes. Snowman, heart, and scalloped circle cookies do not break as easily as others. Mr. Camel up above most definitely cracks.

8 comments:

  1. Interesting, this is the first time I see sugar used for the decoration. Looks good!

    Btw, "Piparkakut" is already plural. :)

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  2. Antti thanks for the grammar check, I would never have known!

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  3. Yes, the Finnish version of gingerbread cookies is much less sugary than the "traditional" one. I love eating the dough raw, it's one of those guilty pleasures...

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  4. Oooh the dough is soo good when its frozen.

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  5. There was black pepper in my recipe, too. Actually Piparkakut means "pepper cookie" in Finnish! So, no pepper no piparkakuja (the singular) :)

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  6. Ava, if there is ever money involved in recipe writing you are getting some of it to edit me, babe!

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  7. Erm hi! I saw this recipe in the new york times, and I decided to make it. I'm not exactly a baker (haha) so I had a question. My "dough" is rather flour-y. What should I add to make it stickier? More butter and molasses? or will it roll out okay after refrigeration?

    Thanks!

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  8. Hi Candace. I just found your comment, sorry if its too late. If you have made the dough an it seems floury just roll with it. The dough is flexible, and it may be stiffer to roll out, but the taste won't be too different.

    Next time you try the recipe, if you find it worthy haha, just add the flour in 3 additions, about 1 1/2 cups at a time. That way you can ease up before it gets to stiff.

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