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Pepparkakor (Swedish Ginger Cookies)

Pepparkakor are Swedish ginger cookies traditionally served at Christmas time. They are less sweet and have a slightly more complex flavor.

Pepparkakor are Swedish ginger cookies traditionally served at Christmas time. They are less sweet and have a slightly more complex flavor. #ChristmasCookies #InternationalCookies

If you celebrate Christmas, then you know that now is the time to get your tree (or assemble your fake one), decorate it, string up the lights, hang your stockings, and best of all — bake Christmas cookies! Best of all, our Christmas Cookies Week sponsor, Nielsen-Massey, is giving one lucky winner a set of 8 of their extracts and flavors. See the entry widget just above the recipe to enter to win!

All this week, I and 33 other food bloggers will be posting Christmas cookie recipes, and today in particular, some of us are focusing on international cookies. Last year, I shared a favorite from my own heritage, Scottish shortbread cookies. This year, I'm going Scandinavian with Swedish ginger cookies, called Pepparkakor.

Pepparkakor are Swedish ginger cookies traditionally served at Christmas time. They are less sweet and have a slightly more complex flavor. #ChristmasCookies #InternationalCookies

Peppar means pepper and kakor can mean cookie or cake. Modern versions of this recipe don't actually include any pepper, but the one I'm sharing does. You can also include a dash of cayenne pepper, if you like, but I thought these had great flavor without it.

They are similar to gingersnaps or gingerbread cookies that are common in the United States, and like gingerbread, this cookie dough can be cut into shapes. But as you need to work with the dough when it's very cold, I thought it would be easier to scoop and roll into balls.

Pepparkakor are Swedish ginger cookies traditionally served at Christmas time. They are less sweet and have a slightly more complex flavor. #ChristmasCookies #InternationalCookies

Unlike American gingerbread, pepparkakor isn't usually iced or frosted for serving. They are either eaten plain, or with a sprinkle of turbinado sugar before baking.

In researching pepparkakor, I learned that it is tradition to hold a cookie in the palm of your hand. Make a wish, and with the index finger of your other hand, tap the cookie until it breaks into three pieces. Then, your wish will come true!

Pepparkakor are Swedish ginger cookies traditionally served at Christmas time. They are less sweet and have a slightly more complex flavor. #ChristmasCookies #InternationalCookies

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Pepparkakor are Swedish ginger cookies traditionally served at Christmas time. They are less sweet and have a slightly more complex flavor. #ChristmasCookies #InternationalCookies

Pepparkakor (Swedish Ginger Cookies)

Yield: 24 cookies
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp white sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp orange extract
  • ¾ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 large egg

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine the butter, both sugars, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, orange extract, salt, cloves, and pepper. As the butter melts, whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to simmer. Remove from heat. Cool until just warm to the touch, about 30 minutes.
  3. Whisk the egg into the cooled mixture until smooth. Pour over the dry ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula until no dry flour remains. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  4. Heat the oven to 350 F with racks in the upper- and lower-middle positions. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Working with a tablespoonful of dough at a time, use dampened hands to roll into balls. Arrange 12 dough balls on each baking sheet, spacing evenly.
  5. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the balls on each sheet and use the bottom of a dry measuring cup to flatten each to about ¼ inch thick. Remove the plastic and bake until richly browned, 14 to 16 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Cool on the sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

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Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Slightly adapted from Dawn Yanagihara's recipe as seen on Christopher Kimball's Milk Street

See more Christmas Cookies:

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Candy Cane Martini
'Tis the season for cranberry eggnog biscotti! These crunchy, sweet cookies are loaded with sweet-tart dried cranberries. #ChristmasCookies
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Cranberry Eggnog Biscotti #ChristmasCookies

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Doug

Tuesday 16th of March 2021

wow! I've tried a few recipes and had "ok" results. These are the real thing! AND, if you want to try them a little softer in the middle, just eat then the same day you make them! By tomorrow, they'll be as crunchy as the edges! First Rate! Thanks Doug

Jennifer

Saturday 12th of December 2020

Hi, could I use gf flour with this recipe instead?

Coleen

Monday 14th of December 2020

I have no experience substituting gluten-free flours, so I'm not able to advise.

Niko

Wednesday 9th of December 2020

Hi! First of all, fun that you choose Swedish baking. I found this post when trying to find an English recipe for an American friend. Anyway, as you might have realised, I'm Swedish and I just wanted to comment on a couple of things. About wishing, you only tap the pepparkaka once (and usually with a "finger knuckle ") and IF it breaks in three pieces, your wish will come true. Kids usually try and find the best place to tap the cookie to make it break in three parts. I've also never seen a pepparkaka with any kind of sugar on top (I googled turbonado sugar and don't think I've seen it on top of anything). Not that there's anything wrong to put sugar on top of them and someone in Sweden probably do. Well, that was my little comments, which isn't meant as criticism, by the way.

Abigail Vestal

Tuesday 27th of October 2020

Way too long cooking time! Severely burned on bottom and edges.

Coleen

Tuesday 27th of October 2020

Do you have an oven thermometer to ensure your oven temperature is accurate? Your oven could run hot.

Melanie

Monday 26th of October 2020

I made these because they are described as "breaking into 3 pieces" which sounds like they are crunchy. I followed the recipe exactly and while the cookies are delicious and look just like the photo, they are extremely stale in texture and no part of these are crunchy in the least or break into parts when pressed. Very disappointed and I'm wondering what was left out of the original recipe...🤔

Coleen

Monday 26th of October 2020

Hi Melanie, did you weigh your ingredients? Do you monitor your oven temperature with a thermometer? Baking recipes can be greatly affected by these. I'm not sure what you mean by "I'm wondering what was left out of the original recipe.." because I've linked to the original recipe in my post and you can see the slight changes I've made (using molasses instead of dark corn syrup, using more ground ginger and omitting the fresh ginger).

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