So, it’s October. Holy crap. Time flies when you’re working. It also flies when you’re not working. I’ve graduated from school and now I am looking for a job.
But that’s not what I want to talk about. Lets talk baking.
Crisp is my favorite way to describe the season we call fall. It’s also how Pepsi Co. describes Diet Pepsi, but that’s really not relevant.
During spring and summer I tend to stick to making lighter meals and desserts. But when fall comes around I have the urge to turn on the oven, open a new bag of flour and make a huge mess in the kitchen. Mixing bowls of batter flavored with chocolate chips or dried fruit litter the counter tops. Wooden spoons, after they’re done being useful, never go unlicked in my house.
I’ve spent the past few weeks cleaning out my bedroom and sorting through all the papers, tchotchkes and toys I’ve collected in my 22 years. I can positively say that I had way too many Barbies growing up. Looking back my parents probably regret buying all that pink plastic, but I loved it at the time and it was definitely used well.
In one box of papers I found an old Christmas gift circa 1994 (I only know this from the inscription inside the front cover). Ladies and gents, I would like to introduce you to the “Swedish Cultural Coloring Book,” which was printed in the 1970s. You can tell it’s dated because of the lovely, and detailed, map of Scandinavia. Bordering Sweden are Norway to the North and East, Denmark to the South and Finland to the North and West. Right next to Finland is the U.S.S.R. Love it!
Anyway, I remember receiving the coloring book and being very careful about coloring within the lines and making everything look pretty. I was six after all! My coloring skills were top notch and I didn’t color outside the lines like a child or make people have green skin anymore. Besides, Swedes aren’t green – we’re very pale people.
The book tells funny little stories of the girl (Stina) and the boy (Eric) on the cover. It’s kind of like a guide book on how to be Swedish. It has the happy birthday song in Swedish, four pages are dedicated to the Vikings and it describes the concept of Midsummer.
This summer I had the opportunity to go to the Scandinavian festival in Jamestown, New York. I went with some very gracious friends who did not laugh at me (at least not loudly) as I skipped and danced around the traditional Midsummer pole and posed with the Dala horse statue. Below are some pictures. I was such a happy camper.
Now, seriously back to baking.
The real reason I wanted to share this book was because of the recipes it lists. There is one for the traditional Lucia Buns, which are served to the family by the eldest daughter on Christmas morning. But my favorite recipe is the one for Pepparkakor cookies, more commonly known as ginger thins.
They are thin ginger-spice cookies that are kind of like a crispy gingerbread. All I know is that they’re fairly simple to make and utterly addictive. One of my favorite food blogs is Anne’s Food. Anne blogs from Stockholm, Sweden, so I trust her judgment when it comes to traditional Swedish recipes. Here is her recipe for Pepparkakor, but I used the one from the book because Anne’s recipe makes about 10 dozen. The coloring book one only makes a little more than three dozen.
Still it was good to compare the two recipes, and when I make these for Christmas I will definitely try the larger recipe–these will make great gifts.
Pepparkakor Cookies, from the 1976 “Swedish Cultural Coloring Book”
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, if you use salted just omit the added salt later
1/2 cup molasses, I used the “Grandma’s Molasses” brand
1/4 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. milk, I used “Half-and-Half” because it was all I had–it worked fine
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
pinch of salt
1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. When melted add the sugar, molasses and milk. Heat slowly until all the sugar is dissolved.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt.
3. In a large bowl, add the the dry mixture to the wet mixture and blend well. The dough will be a little sticky. Let the dough sit in the refrigerator for eight hours or over night. It needs the time to cool.
4. Roll out dough on a well-floured board about 1/8-inch thick. Work quickly, if the dough gets too warm return it to the fridge and let it chill. Cut out cookies in any shape you like, I used a medium-sized biscuit cutter.
5. Bake in a 350*F over for 10-11 minutes. Let cool on baking racks. This recipes yields about 40 medium-sized cookies They are great with coffee.
Here’s part of the song that accompanies the Pepparkakor recipe. It’s called “Tre Pepparkaksgubbar.” According to Google Translate it means “Three Gingerbread.” I wish I knew Swedish, can anybody tell me if this is correct?