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I thought I knew Christmas—and then I met (and eventually married) a Swede.
Christmastime is taken very seriously in this Nordic land. Summer in Sweden is often touted as the best time to visit, but I’d say the idyllic, straight-out-of-a-children’s-storybook holiday time is a close second.
Between the Christmas markets (julmarknad) and Christmas buffet table (julbord, an actual smörgåsbord!), complete with all sorts of wonderful treats both sweet and savory, it’s hard not to get swept up in the Christmas spirit. Part of this holiday tradition includes the making and baking of pepparkakor, or Swedish gingersnaps. I’ll be honest: I never cared for gingersnap cookies growing up, but this version, adapted from a 1952 classic recipe via Swedish pastry chef and friend Mia Öhrn, has made me a convert.
Filled with a generous amount of ground ginger, ground cinnamon, and ground cloves, these cookies are well-spiced, but not spicy. Plus, they have extra zing thanks to two star ingredients: lemon and orange zests.
Another major bonus? Both the dough and the baked cookies store very well. “The dough keeps for weeks,” explains Mia. “So you can make it well in advance, and even freeze it if you want to. Since it is such a large batch, you can wrap up parts of it and [they] will make a nice gift.” Who doesn't love a good edible present?
Prepare a batch (the recipe below is halved from the original) and keep the wrapped dough in the refrigerator, rolling out just the amount you need whenever the mood strikes. Or, roll out and bake the entire recipe’s worth; they’ll keep well in an airtight container from now until Christmas (if they manage to last that long!). Little hands love to help roll and cut these out, if you’re looking for good kid-friendly recipes for your next snow day activity. And according to Mia, the dough works well for making gingerbread houses.
During these cold winter months, daylight is something of a commodity. Take a cue from the Swedes and light candles as soon as the sun begins to set, indulge in a fika (Swedish coffee break enjoyed by all), and delight in these delicious, crisp, and fragrant cookies. My husband loves them with a cold glass of milk; we've also found they're amazing topped with a bit of Stilton or gorgonzola cheese (really anything blue). They’ll definitely put you in a cozy holiday state of mind.
- 150 grams (10 1/2 tablespoons or 1 1/3 sticks) butter, cut into smaller cubes
- 450 grams (3 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 135 grams (2/3 cup) sugar
- 90 grams (3/8 cup or 3 fluid ounces) ljus sirap (see note above under "Author Note")
- 60 milliliters (1/4 cup or 2 fluid ounces) strong coffee
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- Zest of half a lemon, more to taste
- Zest of half an orange, more to taste
Do you have a favorite gingersnap recipe? Please share your own cookie traditions with us below.