Holiday Cookie Recipes: Pepparkakor Plus
Also an Eek of the Week: Fake Bakers, about the – many, according to story – people who bring purchased pastry to bake sales and cookie swaps and pass it off as home made. To enhance verisimilitude, they doctor the store-bought by roughing it up so it doesn’t look too perfect. Directions are provided. I am still trying to digest this.
The recipe makes approximately a zillion. The dough is easy to mix, easy to handle and perfectly happy to stay in the icebox for weeks while you slice off chunks of it to roll and cut and decorate. Or not; a lot of people like them best plain.
This is the recipe exactly as given to me about 35 years ago by someone who would certainly get credit if I could remember who it was. Whether that tiny amount of vinegar is really necessary (to ensure rising, presumably) I couldn’t say, never having been moved to mess with a good thing.
½ lb. butter
2 c. dark brown sugar
1 c. molasses
1/3 c. strong brewed coffee
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
3 tbl. finely shredded orange zest
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cloves*
1 tsp. ginger*
½ tsp. salt
8 crushed cardamom seeds or ½ tsp. ground cardamom*
7-8 c. all purpose flour.
1. Thoroughly cream the butter and sugar. A wooden spoon will do fine. A stand mixer will do even finer.
2. Beat in, in order, the egg, molasses, coffee, juice and vinegar. Let the batter sit a minute or two, then beat in the zest, soda, salt and spices.
3. Add flour gradually until you have a dough the texture of soft, very slightly sticky clay. Let it mature in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.
4. Heat oven to 350. Roll, cut and bake on buttered or parchment-lined baking sheets for 8 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness. These do rise quite a bit, so even paper thin dough yields reasonably durable cookies. Anything over about 1/8 inch yields cookies that are too durable – unless you plan to dunk them or hang them on the tree.
* Don’t forget to use a bit more if the spices aren’t absolutely fresh.
Rolling and Cutting
Cookies are more tender and shapely if you go the paper route instead of rolling the dough on a lightly floured board and then transferring the shapes. Roll between sheets of waxed paper, lifting and smoothing the paper as needed. After rolling, chill briefly to firm, then peel off one sheet of the waxed paper and replace it with parchment. Flip the dough, peel off the second piece of paper and cut the cookies.
Use a narrow-bladed knife to lift away the scraps. Set large scraps on a piece of parchment and reserve until you have sheet full, then bake for family nibbling. Keep all the small scraps together, roll them out at one go and cut into simple squares so they all get used up without re-re-rolling.
Classic material is Iron Icing – lightly beaten egg white and confectioners’ sugar. A few tips for using it are in the Spritz recipe post (link above), which also has the recipes for pfeffernüsse and, via R. L Beranbaum, David Schamah’s Jumbles probably the world’s best jumbles. Iron icing actually tastes pretty good if you use cornstarch-free glazing sugar and add a drop of rum or kirsch.
The edible ink comes out of the Foodoodlers, as easy to use as marking pens. I don’t know why I left the ladies bald when I could have given them chocolate curls distantly resembling my own, so please don’t ask.
Other cookies made this year or on the list for this weekend: Sour Cream Piecrust ravioli with apricot filling, Pizzelle made with Bill’s grandmother’s iron and Universal Suit-Yourself Fruit and Nut Bars , everything that’s good about fruitcake but not so damned much of it.