Deliciously spicy gingerbread can be found in many northern European countries. The story goes that an Armenian monk, Gregory Makar from Nicopolis Pompeii, moved to France and taught the Christians how to bake this cookie. But it is more probable that gingerbread was brought along to southern Europe by travelers from northern Africa and the recipes then traveled northwards. Initially the cookie or cake was sold as a medicine against stomach problems because of the spices – especially the ginger. But over the years gingerbread developed into a festive sweet cookie or cake. We know it in the form of gingerbread men and soft gingerbread cake. Germans have the lebkuchen and beautifully decorated gingerbread houses. In the Nordic and Baltic countries like Latvia, the cookie usually is pleasantly thin and crisp and is a real Christmas favorite. I took all my Christmas cookie cutters out of the cupboard for this spicy, crunchy piperkūka cookie. You do need to use to some pressure on your rolling pin to get a nice thin result. But cutting these cookies out is easy and they keep their shape beautifully. In the end only the reindeer made it into my picture. The sleds, stars and Santas were gratefully accepted by my permanently hungry sons. If you like this cookie, why not try my variation with chocolate and peppermint filling.
Piparkūka cookie from Latvia
For about 30 cookies
65 grams (2 tbs + 2 tsps) of molasses
65 grams (2 tbs + 2 tsps) of muscovado sugar
65 grams (2 tbs + 2 tsps) of honey
100 grams (½ cup) of butter
350 grams (2½ cups) flour
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp white pepper
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp coriander
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
Melt the molasses with the muscovado sugar, the honey and the butter in a pan on low heat. Don’t let the mixture boil.
Add the spices and half of the flour and mix well.
Leave to cool slightly and whisk in the egg.
Cool completely and then mix in the baking powder, the salt and half of the remaining flour. Knead through and see if you need more flour for a soft, but not too sticky dough.
Add extra flour if needed and knead into a smooth dough. Leave to rest in the refrigerator for about 2 hours but preferably one night.
Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F. Roll out the dough very thinly on a piece of baking paper and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter. Bring the rest of the dough together in a ball, roll out again and cut out more cookies. Repeat until all the dough has been used.
Place the piparkūka cookies on a cookie sheet covered with baking paper. Bake in the middle of the oven for 5-7 min. until lightly browned and done. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the cookie sheet.
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