Scandinavians in the family left us with a law that Ginger biscuits (Pepparkakor) have to be made about now. Like celebration biscuits from any country, they make things exciting, in a tasty, pretty way. You can buy Pepparkakor from IKEA, if you want the perfect mix of crispy goodness and palm oil, but it is more fun if you make them yourself.
There are two ways to make them
The quick way
Get 2 tbsp ground cinnamon,1 tbsp ground ginger,1 tbsp ground cloves,1 tsp ground cardamom, ½ tsp allspice,1 tsp of salt,1 tbsp baking soda, 300 gram unsalted butter, 250 gram white sugar,150 gram brown sugar,1 egg, zest of one lemon, 300 ml golden syrup,300 ml cream, 1100 gram flour. Mix everything up to a big lump. Roll the lump out thin. Cut into 120 shapes, bake, ice, eat.
The proper way
Put a special cloth on the table. Something that only comes out at Christmas. Light candles.
Mix everything up to make a dough. If you want to make a big deal of it, melt the butter syrup and spices together first. This works to create an exciting smell.
By this time the household should be in a frenzy of anticipation. Ruin this by putting the dough in a cool place for 24 hours. The recipe says this lets the spices mix in, but it is actually a psychological method to increase interest.
Find some children. Any children will do. They don’t need to be well behaved, all small people become nice when they play with dough. Here are some I found earlier.
Find some biscuit cutters. If you have Scandinavian relatives these will be in the shape of a pig. Most Christmassy things in Sweden are pig shaped, which might be something to do with pigs being easy to fatten up for winter. No idea. We also have reindeer, tree and kangaroo cutters. They are all good. Every biscuit is the same shape after it has been chewed.
Combine the children, dough and biscuit cutters for about an hour. Aim to leave the children with the impression that they did it all themselves, resulting in a happy memory that will last them well into middle age.
Roll out the dough when the children are not looking and let them do the last bit of rolling themselves. Then they can cut out a few shapes. Get ready to cut at least 100 yourself.
Multi task. The biscuits take 3 to 7 minutes in the oven. 20 seconds too short and they are pale and soggy. 20 seconds too long and they are burnt. So, you need to help children roll and cut, roll and cut yourself and check the oven, all at the same time. It is interesting for the children if at least one set of biscuits are burnt, with plumes of black smoke coming out of the oven. They will love the drama of this moment and your grand announcement that ‘it doesn’t matter because we have lots more dough’.
And you will have lots more dough. This recipie makes approximately 10 times the amount of biscuits that anybody will want to eat. Luckily the dough freezes well and will last for months, before you finally clear out the freezer and throw it away.
By now the children may be loosing interest and fighting. Pack up for the day.
Get the children back again and arm them with icing equipment. Allow them to ice, and eat, four or five biscuits each, while you quickly ice the rest.
Days 4 to 10
Present the biscuits to friends and family. Enjoy the delight on their faces when they receive a genuine, hand made, taste of Scandinavian Christmas.
Only make them once a year. Eat them every day and they become boring. Just have them at Christmas and they are the best biscuits in the world.
Watch out for dogs. Especially when the biscuits are cooling on the side. If you have a dog, it will know when you look away. It also knows that you don’t know it can fly if it has to.
Try not to mind when people stop eating them after 2 days, or maybe put them casually aside. It is a sad scientific fact that the icing goes stale and hard at about the same speed as the biscuits go soggy.
When all the excitement is over, you will be left with glorious memories of sharing tea and hot biscuits in a house full of sugary gingery smells. You will also be left with uneaten biscuits. You can always give them to the chickens.