Pepparkakor A.K.A. Gingerbread Cookies
There are too many cookies for me to name a favorite, but if I was backed into a corner these come closest. Every year I use a different shaped cutter, and this year I found the cutest little animal cutters from IKEA: hedgehogs, squirrels, and bears. The recipe below is based on a recent posting in Saveur (from Vete-Katten bakery in Stockholm) but I have tweaked it to my own tastes. Pepparkakor are light and crisp, and when they are perfect they give a satisfactory snap when bitten into or broken.
Makes a lot.
3 3/4 cups flour
3 tsp ground cloves
3 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional but good!)
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
11 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
Sift together flour, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, and baking soda; set aside. In another large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, molasses, and syrup until mixture is pale and fluffy (1-2 minutes using stand-up or hand held mixer). Add reserved spice mixture and heavy cream in 3 alternating batches, beginning and ending with spice mix, until the dough just combines. Divide dough in half and shape each half into flat disk. Wrap disks in plastic wrap; refrigerate at least one hour.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap 1 disk and place on floured work surface. Use rolling pin to roll dough into 1/8" thickness. Cut out cookies using cutters of choice and place 2" apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough, re-rolling scrapes (I usually keep scrapes in separate bowl and refrigerate at least 20 minutes. I work slowly in batches in order to get the best results.). Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until browned and set, about 12 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and let cool.
Frost with your favorite icing, if desired. I like to make a simple confectioners' sugar glaze that is mixed with a bit of almond extract and juice from an orange or lemon.