Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gingerbread cookies or "PIPARKUKAS"

gingerbread cookies, just out of the oven

Everybody LOVES these cookies! I have been bugged so many times to share the recipe... well here it is - finally! One fair warning though - these are one of those where you can't stop at one. I make this quantity at least twice for my family during the holiday season and still we always run out of them... :))

Ok, here's what you will need:
400 g honey
400 g sugar
~350 g butter
~1.2 kg flour (it can be a little more or less! That's the tricky part)
2 tea sp. of baking powder or soda

2 tea sp. coriander
2 tea sp. clove (or 15 pcs)
2 tea sp. cinnamon
1 tea sp. nutmeg
1 tea sp. ginger
1,5 tea sp. black pepper
some dried orange peal

All of the spices should be finely ground, either get them that way, or grind them yourself. In any case - they should be fresh, so that you get 100% of the flavor! This mix will produce a nice, balanced taste. I often spice it up a bit more, increasing some of my favorite spices, you can experiment here to your own taste.

Here is how to do it:

First before first, sift the flour. You will definitely use at least a kilo, so I usually do that and then leave it close by to be able to add as much as I need. Mix in the baking powder or soda, whichever one you are using (I actually use soda for these cookies).

First, choose a really BIG pot. It will make things much easier. Put in the honey, half of the sugar, butter and spices. Put it on a slow heat.

 While it's heating up, get a pan. Kick the kids and the cats/dogs out of the kitchen for this one! Put the remaining sugar in it, and let it melt into a brown caramel (don't burn it too much though, this will happen fairly fast!).
200g sugar in a pan
sugar, melted into caramel

Have a half cup of hot water ready, and when the sugar is nice and brown, quickly add the water. This will create a small explosion of steam, so be careful. Stir the whole thing well until all of the sugar has melted and you have one nice caramel syrup.

The 'explosion' part, where I just added water

stir quickly until it all melts

Now, the honey-sugar-butter mix should have melted nicely together by now, releasing a wonderful aroma from all the spices you used in it. Pour the caramel syrup in the pot and slowly mix it with the rest. Let it pop a bubble before you take it off the heat.

looks a little funny, I know, but the aroma is amazing!!

Now the tricky part... Start adding flour, while stirring. Add it spoon by spoon until you can't stir it anymore, then take the whole thing out on a clean surface, sprinkled with some flour and add some more, while working the dough with your hands. It will be HOT, but I never said this is going to be easy... Your target is to get a dough that is easy to work with - like the one that kids play with, and it should not stick to your hands. The first few times I made these, I had put just a little too much flour and the cookies were a bit hard to make (still tasted great though), so I always remind myself to stop before the moment when I think I should just add one last little bit... As the dough cools, it will become a bit harder.

add flour

until you can't mix with the spoon anymore

this one still needs some flour and some work. It should be non-sticky and easy  to work with in the end.

Leave it on a big plate to cool. Roll it rather thin (!) and use cookie cutters to shape pretty cookies. Try to use similar size shapes for each pan, this way they will bake more even.

Bake them in 170`C on pastry program (air plus up and down heat), TIME how long it takes to bake each tray! They are ready real quick, as they have the caramelized sugar in them. Mine usually take 5:30 min to 6:00 minutes and once the timer goes off I drop all else and take them out immediately. If they get burned, they'll be bitter.

That really is it. Let them cool on the pan before you take them off and once they are completely cool store in air tight containers, so they remain crisp. Once cool, these can be decorated with icing - lots of fun! :)