Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Piparkakku - Finnish gingerbread houses

Our family's all time favorite is the Finnish gingerbread.
We usually make small gingerbread houses, (one per capita ends up to grow in a whole village), churches and small cookies for Xmas. The cookies taste best undecorated, IMHO.
The houses get eaten during the New Year Eve party when the house is full of curious children, and the kids had been sharing it with love and pride so far.. Something to plan for this year as well.
In Finland there is no need to look for gingerbread recipe, there are plenty of choices (and quantities) to buy.  Here we don't have that luxury, so I was in heavy search for recipes.
This is the best I've got, from a friend :). I replaced 1/4th of the maple syrup with molasses, for a stronger taste. You can try it both ways..

250 g butter
1.5 dl dark maple syrup (a bit more than a 1/2 cups)
2 dl sugar (a bit less than a cup)

2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger (I always add a bit less as it is a very strong taste, so play with it as you wish)
2 tsp cloves, ground
2 tsp orange peel (I replaced it with about one small lemon's grated peel)
2 small eggs
pinch of salt
2 tsp baking soda
(flat), next time I'm going to try them with baking powder

8 dl wheat flour,  450 - 500g depending on your flour (a bit more than 3 cups)

In a pot add the butter, syrup, sugar and spices. Heat it up, mixing all the time, let it just start to boil and remove from heat. Let it cool down a bit and mix in the eggs. Add the flour & baking soda + salt. Let it stand in the fridge over night. If the pastry is soft, no worries, just add a bit of flour next day to make it workable.
With some flour below and on top roll it into thin sheets (~3 mm) and with a cookie cutter cut out some nice cookies. Bake them in 200 C (400F) for about 10 minutes, so that they get a bit of color. Makes about 60-70 cookies.
You can decorate them with icing if you like. We decorated about 60 of them for classmates, I'm gonna post a pic tomorrow..

If you decide to make houses and not cookies, design your house, cut it out from paper, cut the dough, bake the pieces. If it bakes in more irregular shapes than you like, and it looks like it is going to be hard to put together, adjust them with a knife until warm. Melt some sugar (~60 g, 1/2 cup)  until golden, dip the wall edges into the sugar and use it as glue. It dries VERY quickly, but be careful, this is not something to do with kids. It burns your skin really badly..
Quick instructions about size if you don't want anything special: cut four 6x12 cm rectangles for side walls and roof, two 6x6 cm squares for back and front, cut a 2x4 cm piece out of the front wall as door, and bake an irregular ~20x35 cm oval(ish) base. One portion of dough makes 3 houses with some additional pine trees and angels :).
Decorate as you like, (icing recipe) and sift some icing sugar on top.

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