Something to nibble under the mistletoe

Pepparkakor are to Swedish Christmas what mince pies are to English Christmas.  One without the other would be a bit of a sin, really.  

 Although you can find them in shops all year round, these spicy gingerbread biscuits with their taste of cloves, cinnamon and ginger are undeniably Christmassy and ubiquitous come the first of advent.

Apart from being delicious accompanied by a mug of glögg (Swedish, much stronger mulled wine) or a cup of Earl Grey, they are also rather wonderful as canape bases for your Christmas party.  You might think me mad, but topped with some blue cheese, they are an absolutely dreamy combo of salty and sweet and a perfect pairing with a glass of fizz.  In my family, they were also always part of Christmas eve breakfast.

This is my recipe, which makes for quite crisp biscuits with a slight citrus tang from the lemon essence and dried bitter orange peel (pomeransskal).  I realise these two ingredients aren’t the easiest to find, but you could easily substitute for a teaspoon each of grated lemon and orange peel.  Or try ordering them online.  Cloves can be quite difficult to find ground in the UK and US, but are essential in this recipe.  You can always try grinding whole cloves yourself in a pestle and mortar if you can’t source the ground stuff. 

This recipe is best when the dough has been left to mature for a few days in the fridge.  It also freezes very well.  A word of caution for when you do come to bake them, though: Don’t step away from the kitchen.  These beauties burn in a millisecond.  Watch them like a hawk.

Pepparkakor (Swedish Gingerbread Biscuits)

You will need:
250g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
150ml golden syrup
1/2 tsp lemon extract (or 1 tsp lemon peel, grated)
2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp bitter orange peel (or 1 tsp orange peel, grated)
1 tbsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
500 g plain flour


1. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl before adding the syrup and lemon extract (or lemon and orange peel, if using).

2.  Combine all the dry ingredients (spices, flour and bicarb) in a smaller bowl and beat into to the butter mixture.

3.  Knead quickly to form a sticky dough.  Separate into two balls, wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for at least 24 hours, but preferably a few days.  You can also freeze the dough until you need it. 

4.  Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature for about an hour before using.

5.  Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.  Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment. 

6.  On a floured work surface and using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough as thinly as you dare.   Use cookie-cutters to stencil out they shapes you would like. If the dough becomes to sticky and difficult to use, return to the fridge for a little while. 

7.  Carefully place onto the baking sheets and bake in the preheated oven for 7-10 minutes, keeping an eye on them to ensure they don’t burn. 

Autumnal Harvest- part II

Part two of the harvest (and I’m really quite proud of these): Devonshire Apple Scones. So called because that’s where the recipe comes from, but in this case particularly apt as the apples were actually picked in Devon too. These are quite buttery and satisfying as they are, but what I’d really like to do when I make them again is to reduce the butter quantity by about half and maybe add another egg (albeit a small one). I imagine they will be a little drier that way, so I’d serve them with a little pot of whipped cinnamon butter on the side. Oh yes.

For 8-10, depending on how large you want them to be.

  • 8oz / 200g self-raising flour (wholemeal or white)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4oz / 100g cold unsalted butter
  • 2oz / 50g brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 medium apples

Heat your oven to 190°C / 375°F / Gas mark 5.

1) Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon.

2) Rub in the butter until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3) Core and peel the apples. Chop into cubes, as small as you can be bothered with. Add to the dry ingredients.

4) Beat the egg before adding it to the mix and stir. It will be a very dry and lumpy, but it will come together, I promise!

5) Shape 8-10 scones and place on a lined or non-stick baking tray, with a gap between them.

6) Bake for about 20 mins, then check and bake for another 5 minutes or so to get them nice and brown. Cool and enjoy!


Some pics of the cinnamon bun making process for classic Swedish kanelbullar. I made a massive batch for my Midsummer’s party. The recipe I use is my grandmother’s (Mormor), although for these I think used about twice as much cinnamon, sugar and butter as she does! The pics are of the buns in their ‘raw’ state, before I brushed them with egg and baked in a super hot oven.

Big Red Spice

cinnamon | 24/11/2009 | By

I saw my folks recently who have just came back from India. They brought with them a big bag of this cinnamon bark which I am working my way through. If you nibble a bit it tastes just like that American gum brand, Big Red, quite peppery! It’s great to add flavour when stewing, poaching and boiling. I think you can get similar bark in little deli shops and things- I’ve spied it in a good Turkish one near me.