What is it that attracts your initial interest in a new recipe? Way before your final verdict on the results, what triggers your culinary hunting skills? I can’t quite pin point it down, no rule of thumb, no blanket conclusion. What sometimes does it for me is an unusual pairing of ingredients, or perhaps the author’s captivating writing style. Rave reviews can also subserve to achieve the benefit of a doubt and make me head into the kitchen and just do it. But above all that, a nice picture never fails to seduce me!
Spotting Mav’s cookie recipe (herself inspired by Camilla), the sloppy piles on my desktop all of sudden became less important… Christmas cookie baking was overdue! Totally overdue. My annual routine has already been messed up, for the first time really – no curd stollen, no chocolate coconut cubes, no blackberry smacks, no vanilla crescents started off this years’ baking marathon, instead the Pepparkakor (Swedish Christmas Ginger Cookies) rang in the season.
And what a worthy choice! Not only did I work with molasses dough for the first time, but my kitchen was infused with wonderful fragrant spices – can you get high on cloves and ginger? I bet you can. Like Mav, I substituted the white sugar with brown one (demerara sugar) and for the molasses I used sugar beet molasses for my first batch and date syrup (Silan) for my second. Pepparkakor – definitely a keeper!
In a small pan heat molasses, butter and sugar, stirring every now and then. Let it boil moderately until all sugar crystals have dissolved (I failed to do it with my first batch, therefor little crystals have manifested on the cookies’ surface, but these do neither diminish their taste nor the cookies’ look). Let cool off for at least half an hour – if you’re impatient like I am, luke-warm is cool, pun intended.
In a large bowl sieve the flour together with baking soda, spices and salt. Form a hole in the middle and add the egg as well as the molasses mixture and knead together with your food processor – kneading by hand may be a very sticky experience. Add a little more flour if the dough appears too sticky, you should be able to shape it into a ball. Tightly cover it with cling film and let rest in the fridge until firm, mine took two hours.
Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Cut off smaller portions of the dough and roll it out (the thinner the better) on a slightly floured wooden board or nonstick silicone baking mat, then stamp out your desired cookie shapes. Bake on a parchment paper or baking mat lined tray for 8 to 10 minutes or until they just start to get some color on the very edges. Be careful, the thinner they are, the faster they burn! The ones where I used sugar beet syrup overall had a nicer darker color, while the date syrup ones turned out brighter and a little softer in consistency. Keep in an air-tight container for as long as you can resist, they get better day by day.
Recipe source, adapted
Prep time: 15min. (plus chilling), baking: 8-10min.
Ingredients (yield: ~4 trays):
150g molasses (or sugar beet syrup, date syrup)
100g brown sugar (e.g. demerara)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg