Sunday, 9 December 2018


2018-12 pepparkakor

A Swedish Wiki article informs me that the history of gingerbread may go as far back as to around 1700 B.C. (!) in Mesopotamia – i.e. long before the first Christmas. The same article also says that Roman soldiers used to carry them as provision, because they kept well and did not get mouldy. In Sweden, ginger biscuits were probably “imported” from Germany back in the 1300s. (Swedish: pepparkakor / German: Pfefferkuchen,  because the original recipes had pepper in them.) Recipes began to spread here via cookery-books in the 1700s; and in the 1800s they came to be associated especially with Christmas.

During my lifetime, home made ginger biscuits have always been part of the Advent/Christmas traditions, both in my own family and with a lot of friends. I think I started baking my own the same year I moved into my first flat that had an oven. (The first year away from home I lived in a small student’s flat without a proper kitchen.) There were a number of years in between when neck/arm problems stopped me from baking; but a few years ago I decided to try it again, but now with smaller batches.

This year’s bake proved to be somewhat of a challenge - again - probably because I forgot to add the treacle when I made the dough… (It’s in the recipe and I did take the bottle down from the cupboard before I started, but…)  As a result, the dough got a bit too dry and crumbly, and the biscuits definitely not my best batch ever. I also had to take a long break to rest between my “workout” sessions at the baking board! But hey, the biscuits didn’t break, and less sugar = healthier, right??

Do you make gingerbread biscuits/cookies – and if so, what spices do you use? My mum’s were different from those made by her mother (who died when I was only six years old, but taste is a rather strong bearer of memories!). And mine in turn are a bit different from my mum’s. I recall my grandma’s gingerbread as having a stronger taste of ginger and being of a lighter colour than mum’s. Mum had ginger, cinnamon and clove in hers. I too have those three but also cardamom in mine.

I may have told the story before, but reading about the Roman soldiers above (keeping gingerbread as provision) reminds me: When clearing out my parents’ house, I found some left-over gingerbread biscuits in a jar in a kitchen cupboard. Not sure now how long after mum’s death this was, if in the same year or later (she died in May 2009 and we didn’t sell the house until 2014; but I probably went through the kitchen cupboards a few times in between.) Anyway, the biscuits were still hard and with a strong spicy smell, awaking memories of Christmases past... I didn’t eat them but took a few home with me and kept in a small tin jar. I never ate them, just opened the jar every now and then to smell them. I think I actually kept them for a another few years before finally throwing them away. But even then I suspect they would probably still have been okay to eat!


  1. You did a wonderful job! The shapes are perfect, and the color good. They look flavorful and nicely crisp! The history of gingerbread is very interesting; I can picture the soldiers eating the fragrant gingerbread in the snow as they march. I have made gingerbread pancakes! But not the cookies. I would have done the same thing you did with the jar of biscuits. Did you know they say that our sense of smell evokes memories stronger than any other sense?

    1. Ginny, I've never even heard of gingerbread pancakes before! :o
      When I read about the Roman soldiers eating gingerbread, it made me think of "lembas", the bread made by the elves in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings... ;)

  2. They look fine, Monica, and although I think cookies need plenty of sugar (otherwise, I'll prefer a slice of bread), the other spices combined do no doubt provide a very nice Christmassy taste :-)
    We have a proper baker in the family. He makes 12 or 13 types of Christmas cookies (Plätzchen) in one single afternoon, and the look like straight out of a recipe book, and taste wonderful. He distributes them in the family; I have a very large tin of them in my living room and ration them to myself to 6 or 7 every night, so that they should last me almost until Christmas. Therefore, no baking of my own while this very nice family tradition lasts :-)
    I loved baking with my Mum, though, when I still lived at home. I have never managed to get my favourite cookies (Heidesand) like my Mum, although I have her recipe and have assisted her countless times.

    1. Meike, with that Plätzchen diet it's a mystery to me how you manage to stay so slim! :) ... My gingerbread recipe has two more types of sugar in it as well (brown and white) - besides the treacle that I forgot... So taste-wise I think they're still ok. The dough just got a bit harder to handle and the cookies perhaps also slightly less "snappy" than usual...

  3. I love ginger bread and ginger cookies (biscuits) and have not had any homemade ones since my mother made them as a child.. I can almost smell them now. I am surprised they don't mold and that your mothers retained the smell that long...


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