Christmas notes: pepparkakor

Pepparkakor are little Swedish ginger biscuits I only make, as other seasonal recipes, once or twice a year. I never quite recall the quantities that worked for me, the observations and alterations I made last time; I only have my most recent notepad with me.

So: I’m going to make notes up here as I go, for my own reference as much as anything. I’ve just arrived down in Sussex, so time to get some biscuit dough underway, as it’ll need a night in the fridge to develop and firm up.


I often find Swedish pepparkakor recipes a little under-spiced and under-sugared (trust me – I don’t have a sweet tooth). This is characteristic of Scandinavian baking, and mostly I find subtle sweetness vaery appealing. Here though I’m looking for little biccies that snap – and that means sugar. I want them to be toothsome rather than worthy, something to offset  a cup of strong coffee and morning blear.

In a saucepan I caramelise 3dl sugar with 1dl water. When just golden I stand back and add another 1dl water, which splutters volcanically as it solidifies and dissolves the caramel. Keep calm. I add 5oml golden syrup150g butter and allow it to melt over a gentle heat. Then, off the heat, spices: 1tsp ground cloves, 1tsp ground cardamom, 2tsp ground ginger, and 4tsp ground cinnamon or cassia (see note). The heat helps release the essential oils from the spices.

I add 2tsp salt and then 7 1/2dl flour and 1/2 tsp baking powder and mix. The texture should be smooth, and disconcertingly viscous. Once it’s had a night in the fridge, it’ll firm up and be ready to roll. More on which tomorrow!


  1. The “kanel malen” you buy in Sweden (or, as I do, at the fabulous Totally Swedish in Marylebone) is strictly ground cassia, not cinnamon. To me it tastes more deeply, ethereally fragrant than normal ground cinnamon. That’s not an affectation, honestly: the flavour is different, though I can’t deny, very evocative of Swedish holidays, childhood buns, so perhaps you wouldn’t mind so much.
  2. I think cinnamon/cassia more important to the flavour of pepparkakor than the peppery ginger that gives them their name – though it’s really the correct blend of spices, almost like a curry, that makes them individual.
  3. The Swedes insist on using volume rather than weight measurements for dry ingredients. It’s homey and convenient, though I worry not very accurate. Just use a measuring jug, and tap so that the flour/sugar settles. Never seems far wrong that way.
  4. 1dl=100ml.

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