Pepperkaker - Scandinavian Spiced Christmas Biscuits

Pepperkaker, or "pepper cakes", get their name from the warming black pepper that was traditionally mixed in with the other spices. Many modern recipes leave it out, but I've included a smidgeon for old times' sake. You can cut these in stars, hearts, moons, Christmas trees - whatever takes your fancy - personally I have a soft spot for the classic round shape and traditional hearts. Do chill the dough overnight as it really helps to roll it out thinly, plus it gives the flavours time to develop. This dough freezes well, so you can bake half now and freeze the rest to bake another day.

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Instructions

  1. 1

    You can use a food processor to make this dough or mix it by hand. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Mix the treacle, golden syrup, milk and egg yolk together in a bowl or jug, and stir 400g flour and all the other dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Alternate between adding wet and dry ingredients in stages, mixing as you go, until the dough comes together. Add some or all of the remaining 50g flour if the mixture seems too wet, although you want it to be quite sticky – it will set when refrigerated.


  2. 2

    Divide the mixture in two and wrap in clingfilm, squishing and smoothing the mixture down as you seal it up until you have a round disc about 10cm wide. Refrigerate overnight or freeze until needed. Allow the dough to come to room temperature for about 15-20 minutes. If you are using frozen dough, you will need to let it defrost overnight in the fridge beforehand.


  3. 3

    Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas mark 3-4 and line two or three large baking sheets with baking parchment. Roll out the biscuit dough with a floured rolling pin on a lightly floured surface until it is roughly 2mm thick. The thinner you roll it, the crisper the biscuits will be – but if the dough gets too thin, the biscuits may be tricky to transfer to a baking sheet. You may find it easier to roll the dough directly on to the baking sheet and cut out the biscuit shapes there, lifting off the excess dough to roll out for the next batch.


  4. 4

    Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Allow to cool on a wire rack while you repeat the rolling, cutting and baking until all the dough is used up. If you find that the cooled biscuits are still a little soft, you can always pop them back in a 150°C/130°C fan/gas mark 2 oven to dry out.


  5. 5

    Properly crisp and dried out, these biscuits can keep in an airtight container for several weeks. My grandmother used to keep them from Christmas all the way through until Lent, but mine are always eaten up long before that! If the stored biscuits start to go soft, reheat them on a wire rack at 150°C/130°C fan/gas mark 2 for 5-10 minutes, then allow to cool completely on the wire rack once out of the oven to crisp them back up.


Ingredients

  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 70ml treacle
  • 50ml golden syrup
  • 75ml whole milk
  • 1 medium egg yolk
  • 450g plain flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom, ground to a fine powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp finely ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt

Makes 40 

Total time required Total time:

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Recipes extracted from "Scandilicious - Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking" and "Scandilicious Baking" by Signe Johansen, both published by Saltyard Books, and available to purchase on ocado.com

Signe Johansen

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