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Swedish Gingersnap Cookies

Swedish gingersnap cookies (pepparkakor)

  • Servings: Roughly 150 to 200 cookies (depending on size and thickness)
  • Difficulty: Medium
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This Scandinavian recipe is perfect for Christmas baking and results in biscuits that are thin, crispy and delicious. They go great with a glass of Glögg or a cup of milk for the little ones.

Ingredients

  • 1⅓ cup water
  • ¼ cup molasses syrup or black treacle
  • 2 tbsp of ground cloves
  • 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
  • ⅓ tsp of salt
  • 750g of caster sugar
  • 425g of butter (at room temperature)
  • 1.2kg of wheat flour (or some people use all-purpose flour)

Directions

Tip: They’ll need to cool on a wire rack for a while before eating, and if you’re storing them, make sure it’s in an airtight container so they don’t go soft.

Making the dough:

  1. Bring water to the boil, then add syrup, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and bicarbonate of soda and stir for a minute. Remove from heat and allow to stand for about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, beat the butter and sugar in a mixer.
  3. Add the spice mixture from step 1 (when it’s lukewarm) to the butter and sugar.
  4. Mix in the flour and salt until you get a nice smooth dough.
  5. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate overnight. If you have the time, you can even refrigerate it for longer (a few days or so) to help enhance the flavours.

Shaping and baking the dough:

  1. Once the dough has been refrigerated for long enough, heat the oven to 220°C (428°F).
  2. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit, warming up to room temperature.
  3. When it’s ready, dust your cutting board or surface with flour and roll out the dough so it’s nice and thin.
  4. Use your cookie cutters to make shapes and place them on a cookie sheet.
  5. Put them in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, watching them closely so they don’t burn (which can happen very quickly because they’re so thin).

Background: Swedish gingersnap cookies

The word ‘pepparkakor’ translates to ‘pepper cookies’. Otherwise known as Swedish gingersnap cookies.

Although the modern-day recipe doesn’t typically include pepper, some people believe that the cookies of the olden days included this ingredient for its perceived medicinal purposes.

These tasty treats have been a Christmas delight in Sweden since around the 1800s, but recipes for them date as far back as the 1300s. It’s likely they were first brought to Sweden from Germany.

At Christmas, you’ll see them in bakeries all over Sweden, cut into all sorts of holiday-themed shapes, like stars, hearts and goats (yes, goats, because it’s Sweden!). Some people even use them as decorations around the home and on the Christmas tree.

As a twist on this recipe, many Swedish families also make gingerbread houses called ‘pepparkakshus’ that they decorate with candy and icing.

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