By Ellen Oltman Kellner
In many homes, the winter holiday season begins when Christmas trees come inside and wreaths are hung outside. In my house, the smell of gingerbread cookies baking is the true indicator of Christmas. I’ve been baking this family recipe since I was seven – in fact, it was the first thing I cooked by myself. You can cut this into any shapes that speak to you. I’ve even doubled this recipe to make a gingerbread house.
The first 30 years of making this recipe I mixed it by hand with a wooden spoon, chilled the dough overnight, then struggled to roll the stiff dough to the proper thickness. Now I use a stand mixer, then roll the dough before chilling it. The prep time is a little faster, and the rolled dough sheets, in a large zipper bag, can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.
This recipe makes a lot of cookies – the exact amount depends on the size of cutter you choose. You will have enough to share!
Swedish Gingerbread Cookies (Pepparkakor)
4 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 Tablespoon dark corn syrup
2 Tablespoons brewed coffee
Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside. Cream butter and sugars until light, then beat in egg, molasses, corn syrup, and coffee. Mix in flour mixture, one cup at a time, on slow speed, until fully incorporated. Dough will be stiff and crumbly.
Scoop out about one cup of dough onto a sheet of waxed paper and press together gently to make a cohesive disk. Top with a second sheet of waxed paper, then roll to about 1/8 inch thickness. Repeat with remaining dough. Stack rolled dough, place in a giant (2.5 gallon) zipper bag or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Using one sheet of rolled dough at a time, remove top layer of waxed paper. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters – metal cutters work best. Pull away the dough between the cookies, and save to roll out again. Carefully move cookies to a cookie sheet lined with parchment or non-stick foil. Decorate with colored sugar or sprinkles, or leave plain to ice later. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are just beginning to brown. Let rest for a minute, then remove to cooling racks. When completely cool, store between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container.
1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1 Tablespoon water
A few drops food coloring, if desired
Mix ingredients until smooth. Spoon into a plastic bag and cut a pinhole in one corner, or use a plastic squeeze bottle or pastry bag. Squeeze out to decorate cooled cookies. Let the icing dry completely before storing.