The crowning jewel of all the holiday cookies has to be pepperkaker “gingerbread”. With its unmistakable shapes and irresistible flavor, this aromatic and playful treat transcends the cookie tin with some of the most versatile uses for the season. They’ll be hanging by twine and marked for each day as an advent calendar, adorning lit-up trees, featured in stories and tales, turned into elaborate, candy-laden houses and even entire cities – like the world’s largest one in Bergen. There’s just no denying the imprint this cookie has on the holiday season.
In Norway, the holiday season usually kicks off with a baking session of pepperkaker late in November and just in time for the first Sunday of Advent. Over the years, I’ve tried various recipes from old fashioned ones to ones with a hint of cocoa. For me, the standout is always the welcome of warm spices that hit you with every bite. Not subtle, but rather strong enough to awaken the senses so you can really taste the ginger, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper. I played around with my recipe to ensure the spices are really pronounced and the dough is super pliable and easy to work with. This is by far my favorite pepperkaker recipe to date.
The rich flavor from the spices and dark syrup is what makes pepperkaker so special. Each bite draws you in – bringing a little warmth to what could be a rather cold and dark season.
Spicy Norwegian Pepperkaker (Gingerbread Cookies)
Makes around 6-8 baking sheets full of cookies
- 1 1/3 cup (300 g) butter
- 1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ cups (300 ml) Norwegian dark syrup “mørk sirup” or light molasses
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cloves “nellik”
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 6 cups (720 g) flour
In a large saucepan, melt the sugar, butter and syrup or molasses together. Stir in all the spices and set aside to cool completely.
Once the mixture has cooled down, mix in the eggs. In a separate bowl, combine the baking soda and flour. Add this to the syrup mixture and combine to form a smooth and relatively firm dough.
Place the dough onto a large piece of plastic and wrap tightly. Flatten it slightly in a round or square shape to make it easier to roll out. Place in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours, preferably overnight.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Allow the dough to stand at room temperature for a little while before rolling out the dough.
Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/5 inch or ½ cm (the thinner the dough, the crispier the cookie will be) and cut into shapes as desired. If you have a small surface to work with, divide the dough and roll the pieces out one at a time. The more the dough is worked, the easier it becomes to roll it out. Place the shapes on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake in the center of the oven for about 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
You can decorate the pepperkaker with icing or powdered sugar or anything else your heart desires. Store in cookie tins and enjoy!