Gingerbread cookies laid out on a festive red place mat
Pepparkakans dag or gingerbread cookies day, falls on the 9th of December in Sweden, which happens to be today!
While the gingerbread cookie is most often associated with Christmas in Sweden, it is in fact eaten all year round. But then again, I’ve personally observed that it is during the Christmas season that all fantastic creations of gingerbread dough occurs! You can most often see these delicious architecture of cookie dough displayed at bakeries and candy stores in towering miniature houses replete with Santa and reindeer.
Even though we celebrate Christmas in Singapore, gingerbread cookies were never part of my tradition when growing up. We had pineapple tarts more than gingerbread cookies. I believe I tried baking gingerbread cookies once, just once, for Christmas a few years ago because it looked absolutely gorgeous in the cookbook, but nobody ate them. Well, one or two went but there was no such enthusiasm for gingerbread cookies in Singapore as compared to Sweden. They made good Christmas tree decorations though, when strung with a red ribbon through the top.
Today, I’m a much bigger fan of gingerbread cookies and even have a couple of favourite off the shelf brands. What gets me eating is also the belief that if you tapped with your knuckle in the center of the cookie and it breaks into three pieces, you get a chance to make a wish. So it is not uncommon that on the table, you find a small heap of uneaten broken cookies – too many cookies, too few wishes.
A versatile cookie dough, here are some more creative uses of the gingerbread cookie dough:
A gingerbread boat from Pepparkakshus, 2006
A detailed gingerbread house, from Pepparkakshus, 2004
An impressive Pagoda, from Pepparkakshus, 2003
Here’s a brief write-up on gingerbread cookies in the Swedish Wikipedia:
The first documented occurrence of Ginger Bread cookies in Sweden dates back to the 14th century, when the written records from the buying of the ingredients clearly shows that they were baking gingerbread cookies to the wedding between King Magnus Eriksson and Blanka of Namur, but already during the 16th century ginger bread cookies were imported into Sweden. The Swedish King Gustaf Vasa writes to Germund Svensson about a ship that has foundered at South Öland and become totally broken up so that its cargo of ginger bread cookies, among other things we may presume, have become ruined. The ginger bread cookies were often baked by nuns, and were sold as medication for a number of different ailments by the pharmacists. At one time the Union King Hans was prescribed Ginger Bread cookies for his bad temper; and still the myth lives on that you will become nice from eating Ginger Bread cookies.
The Christmas Ginger bread cookies are usually shaped as hearts, stars and other Christmas related symbols. The history of the Ginger bread cookies is thought to be very long. If you compare the ingredients in the cookies of the medieval times it is not much that differs from today, beside that they actually contained pepper. The taste was most probably much the same. Important spices in Ginger bread cookies are cloves, ginger, seville orange and cinnamon. As raising agent, one usually uses soda and as sweetener, syrup and white sugar.
The first documentation of the gingerbread in Sweden dates back to the 1300s when gingerbread cookies were baked for king Magnus Eriksson’s wedding. Gingerbreads were also baked by nuns who sold them as medicine to the apothecaries. People believed that gingerbreads would make them better tempered and easier to be around.
The most common shape for a gingerbread in Sweden is not the gingerbread man but rather the gingerbread heart. The ingredients for gingerbread cookies have not changed much since Medieval times, except that during the Medieval times, they did in fact use peppar as an ingredient. An ingredient which is not used in today’s recipes. The important ingredients to gingerbread dough are cloves, ginger, cinnamon and Seville orange. Sugar or light brown syrup is used to sweeten the dough.
——xoOox—– Happy Gingerbread Cookies Day! ——xoOox—–