Monday, November 26, 2007

Ginger Cookies, Pepparkakor and The Wish Cookie

With the uniquely American holiday, Thanksgiving, now completed we enter into a new season of holidays. Holidays celebrated by families of all backgrounds and creeds each with a set of their own special traditions.

For the Nord Kitchen, it starts with the search for the perfect ginger cookie. Crisp versus chewy, topped with sugar or not. The Handbook of Swedish Traditions, first published by the American Swedish Institute in 1980, lists 10 different recipes for ginger cookies... also known as Pepparkakor. An authentic Pepparkakor recipe should result in a thin, crisp wafer-like ginger cookie laced with just a hint of orange peel.

Swedish custom says that you should place a Pepparkakor in the palm of your hand. Then, make a wish. Using the index finger or thumb of your free hand, tap the cookie in the middle. Swedish tradition states that if the Pepparkakor breaks into three pieces, your wish will come true. If the Pepparkakor does not break into three pieces, well, you'll just have to enjoy eating the cookie in smaller pieces.

For a very thin and very crisp Pepparkakor, I find that the ones imported from Sweden in the holiday tins are wonderful. Although Anna's from Tyreso, Sweden are a family favorite we recently discovered a great tin of cookies imported by Ikea from Gille.

What if you crave a moist, chewy ginger cookie? The American Swedish Institute cookbook does have a recipe for that type also, but I've come to rely on another side of the family for a traditional early American ginger cookie. This recipe has been in my family for many generations and I'm not sure where it originated.

Gramie's Ginger - Sugar Cookies
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cups dark molasses
1 egg

Sift flour with soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. Set aside.
In large mixing bowl add 1 cup sugar to butter, cream until light and fluffy. Blend in molasses and egg.
At low speed beat in flour mixture just until well mixed, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula.
Refrigerate dough for one hour.
After an hour, pinch off pieces of dough, shape into 1 1/4 inch balls. Roll in remaining sugar.
Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 8 - 10 minutes. Remove to wire rack and cool. Will be crinkled. Store in air tight container to keep moist and chewy.
Makes about 4 dozen.


T.W. Barritt said...

I did not know this - what a very cool cookie tradition! I could use three wishes, so I'll give it a try!

Lydia said...

I love any cookie that comes with its own tradition! Thanks for sharing your family recipe, too.

Unknown said...

My Swedish grandparents taught me this fun tradition when I was a small child .I always thought they made it up to keep us entertained. I look forward to teaching my sweet granddaughter our families swedish traditions.