On the twelfth day of Christmas, ¯¯ my true love gave to me ¯¯… Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor.
Well, folks, we did it! Twelve, time-treasured, LunaCafe Christmas cookies and twelve days of almost consecutive posting. It feels like a major achievement.
Baking and recording all of my favorite recipes for you has certainly made my Christmas. Thank you for returning week after week to share in the fun.
And now we are at the final cookie, the cookie that I purposely saved to complete this year’s baking extravaganza. Now that I think about it, I almost always save it for last, perhaps letting the anticipation keep my energy level and enthusiasm up through the weeks of baking.
This is Ellen’s cookie, a cookie I would have never known if not for her. She served it on my first visit to her home in Yakima, Washington. The cookies were arranged on an antique silver platter and were offered alongside an antique silver teapot filled with freshly brewed Darjeeling. The cookies were impossibly thin and crisp and aromatic with spices. By about the third cookie, the heat from the white pepper began to build in my mouth. I had never experienced heat in a cookie before. The cookies were so hot that tears began flowing down my face. But I couldn’t stop eating them.
So in a way, my long and wonderful relationship with Ellen began with these surprising and memorable cookies. For me, they will forever be entwined with memories of her gentle, generous, grateful, and joyful spirit. I know she would want me to share them. They are her gift to you this holiday season.
May the peace and blessing of this season of caring and sharing be with you and your loved ones.
Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor
This Swedish cookie is just enough different from all other Scandinavian “gingersnaps” to make it definitely special: delicate, spicy, and hot! My mom-in-law, Ellen Bradley, got this recipe from a Swedish neighbor who had been a professional baker.
For the Bradley bunch (4 brothers and one sister, each with kids of their own), Christmas without Pepparkakor would be no Christmas at all.Roll these cookies very thinly for best results and “watch watch” as Ellen says on her hand-written recipe card–they color (and burn) quickly.
1 cup unsalted butter, cool room temperature (2 cubes)
1½ cups sugar
1 egg, beaten, cool room temperature
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
finely grated zest of 1 orange
½ cup fresh orange juice
3¾ cups flour
2-3 teaspoons white pepper (depending on how spicy-hot you want the cookies)
2 teaspoons cardamom
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
clear sanding sugar or sprinkles, optional
1.Cream the butter and sugar thoroughly until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes.
2.Add the egg and beat until fluffy.
3.Add the dark corn syrup, orange zest, and orange rind. Combine well.
4.In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour together with white pepper, cardamom, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt.
5.Gradually add to the cookie batter and mix just to incorporate.
6.Divide the dough into 3 equal portions (about 14 ounces each) and flatten each portion to a ½-inch-thick disk on a sheet of plastic wrap. Seal the plastic wrap around each portion of the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (The sealed dough can be refrigerated for 2-3 days if necessary.)
7.With a flour-dusted, cloth-covered rolling pin, roll the dough out very thinly (1/8-inch or less) on a flour-dusted pastry cloth. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters.
8.Arrange cookies on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, decorate with clear sprinkles if desired, and bake at 375º for 6-8 minutes. Watch VERY CLOSELY in the final 2 minutes of baking to prevent cookies from over-browning.
9.Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks.
10.When completely cool, store in air-tight cookie tins. These cookies improve with age and will keep, if stored in a cool, dry place, for many weeks. You can also freeze them.
Makes about 6 dozen.
Come Back for More
Here is the LunaCafe Christmas 2008 Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies initial post and game plan with links to the following twelve cookies.
On the 1st day of Christmas: Lily’s Swedish Vanilla Spritz
On the 2nd day of Christmas: Orange Vanilla Sugar Cookies
On the 3rd day of Christmas: Decidedly Lemon Teacakes
On the 4th day of Christmas: Once in a Chocolate-Spice Moon Cookies
On the 5th day of Christmas: Peppermint Stick Shortbread
On the 6th day of Christmas: Lemon-Lime Clove Sugar Cookies
On the 7th day of Christmas: Toasted Almond Black Cherry Shortbread
On the 8th day of Christmas: Green Tea and Rose Spritz
On the 9th day of Christmas: Almond Butter Poinsettia Cookies
On the 10th day of Christmas: Lemon OrangePecan Thumbprint Cookies
On the 11th day of Christmas: Candy Cane Butter Cookies
On the 12th day of Christmas: Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor