Most people know gingersnaps, biscuits flavored with ginger and other spices, such as cinnamon, molasses, and clove.

The Northern European version, or Icelandic gingersnaps, piparkökur (pepper cookies), is a must before Christmas. Piparkökur is rolled out relatively thin (only about 3mm (0.12″) thick) and cut into shapes. They are smoother than the ginger snaps and thus crisper and often more flavored.

The main difference is probably that the ginger flavour isn’t prominent in the Northern European version. Cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom are important ingredients, as well as allspice.

Then, after the piparköku shapes have been baked, you take out your colored frosting, if you like, and decorate them. This is a popular pastime among families before Christmas.

If you like cheeses, Icelandic gingersnaps are very good with all kinds of blue and white cheeses.

Photo: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar

A gingerbread house or piparkökuhús is also something many families enjoy making together. Some make the houses from scratch, while others buy premade forms in IKEA, for example. The house isn’t generally eaten; it is only made for show.

This is, of course, just one type of Christmas cookie Icelanders love baking before Christmas. Check out our blog on merengue tops and Sarah Bernhardt cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 0,55 lb (250 g) sugar
  • 0,8 cups (2 dl) Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • ½ tbsp ginger
  • ¼ tbsp cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 0,55 lb (250 g) butter
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1,4 – 1,75 lb (650-800 g) all-purpose flour
icelandic gingersnaps, piparkökur

Method:

  • Cold butter is placed in a bowl that is set aside.
  • Sugar and syrup are put in a pot and brought to a boil gently. Then cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and pepper are mixed well with the sugar and syrup.
  • Add the baking soda and stir quickly and well together. At this point, the mixture will lighten and puff up.
  • The mixture is then immediately poured over the butter in the bowl and stirred well until all the butter has melted and the mix is cold.
  • Add the eggs and mix well. Finally, the flour is added little by little until the dough is firm and smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for a few hours, preferably overnight.
  • When the dough is to be used, it is kneaded slightly and then flattened with a rolling pin; it is good to sprinkle a little flour on the table so that it does not stick to it or use baking paper under the dough.
  • The Icelandic gingersnaps are shaped with specially made forms; you have to ensure they are all about the same thickness. Baked in the oven at 200 degrees for approx. 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the gingerbread.

Frosting:

  • Powdered sugar
  • egg white
  • lemon juice
  • food coloring (Wilton is by far the best)
  • Hundreds and thousands if you want
Icelandic gingersnaps

Powdered sugar is placed in a bowl, and a little water is added, along with a bit of lemon juice and egg white.

Whisk well until the mixture is smooth. To achieve a suitable thickness, you must experiment with the liquid ratio to powdered sugar. The frosting must be runny enough to spread on the cookies.

A good rule of thumb is not to add too much liquid because it doesn’t take much for the frosting to become too thin.

Divide the frosting between as many bowls as the colors should be. Add food coloring.
You can then put it in piping bags or use teaspoons and toothpicks to decorate the cookies.

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