Friday, December 22, 2017

Peparkakor: Better Than Gingerbread!

Peparkakor Gingerbread MenWith a husband, eight children, and farm hands to cook for, my Swedish grandmother Anna Larson Bowman had her hands full.  One of her go-to recipes was Peparkakor, a spicy cookie that naturally found its place during the holiday season.  Now, I bake them myself.  Around our house, they're very much in demand.

My mother published the recipe in a cookbook she made for us kids.  I'm not sure why, but I always end up using a lot more flour than she called for.  They come out chewy and delicious, and they're especially good with milk.  This recipe will make about 100 gingerbread men, or 150 2½" cookies.  (As I say, she baked for farmers.)  You may wish to cut it in half.

1½ c. dark molasses
4 c. sugar
1 c. butter or shortening
4 eggs
1 c. sour cream
2 Tbsp. orange rind (one large orange should do it nicely)

approx. 8 c. flour (actually, I use 10-12)
2 Tbsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. cloves
1 Tbsp. ginger
1 tsp. nutmeg

Pour molasses into a saucepan, and heat over medium-high just to bubbling, stirring constantly.  Fold in sugar, and stir constantly until sugar is dissolved.  Pour into a large bowl, add butter, blend, and let cool.  The butter will rise to the top, but that's okay.

Combine the dry ingredients.

When the molasses mixture has cooled below about 130° F, fold in the eggs, sour cream, and orange rind, and beat with a whisk until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients and blend well.  It'll be a workout.  A wooden spoon works as well as anything.

If you want to make round cookies:  Shape the dough into several rolls, wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap, and chill overnight.  Then you can just slice and bake.  For cutter cookies:  Chill in the bowl overnight.  Then you can carve out chunks, and roll them out to 1/8"-3/16" on a floured surface (flour the dough as you go).  Keep your cutters floured; toothpicks will probably come in handy to remove the dough from the cutter.

Place the cookies on ungreased sheets and bake at 350° F for about 12 minutes.