01 December 2009

Gingerbread Cookies

It's finally getting close to Christmas, and I decided to celebrate this fact by baking gingerbread cookies - Swedish style. The ones you can find in the U.S. seem to be a bit darker and heavier than what I'm used to, the main reason being that a lot of color comes from molasses. This traditional recipe uses golden syrup instead, but if you are unable to find this, mix 1/3 molasses and 2/3 light corn syrup for the same effect (I did find some, in the third store I checked).

I remember being (much) younger, helping my mom bake these cookies. As a child, you end up eating about as much of it as you finally end up baking, but I managed to exercise some restraint and had just a small taste of the dough while I was making it to make sure the spices came out the way they're supposed to. The dough won't take long to make, but plan on spending at least a couple of hours shaping the cookies with various cookie cutters if you end up making the full batch at once (I decided to make half the batch today and the rest in a few days; it will last in the fridge for about a week). The cookies themselves will last over a month if kept in a cookie jar or tin and up to six months if you freeze them. Depending on thickness, this recipe will make over 200 cookies.

Those are my fiancée's hands in the picture, not mine. Just saying.

Swedish Gingerbread Cookies

10.5 oz/300g/2.65 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup golden syrup
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cloves
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 cups water
6 1/3 cups all purpose flour

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, using an electric mixer), combine the butter (at room temperature), sugar and golden syrup. Mix well, until completely blended into a smooth batter.

Add spices and baking powder and mix well. Add the water and mix well. Next, add the flour, one cup at the time, and make sure the flour is completely incorporated before you add the next cup. However, if you're not using a stand mixer, add all the flour at once and turn onto a baking board and knead by hand.

Once the dough comes together, divide into two halves and wrap each with tin foil. Refrigerate at least overnight or up to a week.

Once it's time to bake, turn the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange parchment paper (not wax paper!) on a baking sheet or lightly coat the sheet with vegetable oil (I strongly prefer the parchment paper). If you have multiple baking sheets, I suggest using all of them, one at a time. Next, cut off a chunk of dough - I cut mine into about a tenth of the total amount of the dough in one of the two foil packages, but it's down to how big of a work area you have to work with. I wouldn't recommend working with huge pieces of dough, though. Next, sprinkle some flour on the work area/baking board, add the dough and sprinkle some flour on top of it. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough thinly, to about 1/4 inch thickness (about half a centimeter).

Now comes the fun part: punch out shapes with cookie cutters. I used Christmas trees, Father Christmas heads, stars, hearts, etc. Once you're unable to fit any more cookies, remove whatever dough is left outside the shaped cookies. Next, using a thin metal spatula, transfer the cookies to the cookie sheet. These cookies will barely grow, so you can place them relatively close to each other.

Bake for 6-7 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Transfer to a cooling rack and bake the next batch. I prepared the second batch while the first was in the oven and basically didn't have an empty oven for an hour or so. Once the cookies are cooled, transfer to a storing vessel and store at room temperature.

If you wish, you can add colored sugar crystals to the cookies before you put them in the oven. You can also add a glaze and draw patterns on the cookies. Simply mix 1 tablespoon hot water, 1 egg white and 2 - 2.5 cups sifted confectioner's sugar. Place the glaze in a plastic bag, cut a very small hole in a corner and you're good to go. Just make sure you let the glaze dry before storing the cookies.

Serve the cookies with a hot beverage. While some may enjoy them with coffee, tea or hot chocolate, nothing beats Glögg, traditional Swedish mulled wine. I will be posting my recipe for Glögg in the coming days. Stay tuned.


  1. My husband went on a trip to Sweden in September and gave me some Swedish gifts for my birthday in October. One was a set of three cookie cutters in the shape of the traditional Dalarna horses so I hope this recipe will be perfect for them. I shall try them this week for the cake stall I am organising at my church fete this Saturday. I'll let you know How I get on - your pictures look delicious. We usually buy Glogg (sorry, no umlaut on my keyboard I think!) from IKEA but am looking forward to seeing your recipe.

  2. Nice! The IKEA Glögg is obviously alcohol free. The one I'm making has more alcohol than alcohol itself. That's not even remotely true, but mulled wine without the wine defeats the purpose :)