Gingerbread ‒ Piparit

Warning: Keeping a food blog may cause you to try the weirdest things. Last year my spouse came home from a journey just in time for Yule so I surprised him by decorating gingerbread cookies with obscene symbols and hanging them all around our home. Knowing exactly how good I am with handicrafts I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have even crossed my mind to build a full gingerbread house if I couldn't tell about it here. The artwork in the photo is my third one and it was built together with three friends of mine. If you want to see more traditional examples gather ideas from here.

In different countries, gingerbread can mean all sorts of cakes or biscuits. In Scandinavia it means a dark, thin and crunchy biscuit with a generous amount of spices. They're eaten almost exclusively during Christmas time. Besides houses, they often have a shape of people, pigs, spruces, hearts, stars and bucks. The Finnish name piparkakku comes from Swedish pepparkaka, "pepper cake".

Here's the most basic gingerbread recipe I can think of (combining at least this and this recipe):

- 2 dl dark syrup
- 2 dl sugar
- 1 dl water
- 200 g quality margarine (for example Keiju 70 %)
- 1 l wheat flour (or spelt)
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon clove
- 1 tablespoon cardamom
- 1 tablespoon ginger
- 0.5 tablespoon bitter orange peel

Melt together the sugar, the syrup, the water and the spices. Pour the hot mixture over the margarine. Keep stirring until the margarine has melted as well. Let the mixture cool down a bit and then whip it fluffier. Filter in the flour and the soda in small amounts. Leave the paste in the fridge for overnight. Try not to eat it all.

Next day you can roll the paste out into a thin layer (I recommend sprinkling some flour on the table first). Cut it into merry shapes and put them into a 200°C oven until they've gotten some nice brown colour (10-15 minutes).

If you wish, decorate the cookies with an icing made of water and confectioner's sugar. You can get a pink colour by adding a drop of beetroot juice in the icing or a blue one with bilberry juice.

When building a house you should first draw blueprints (if creating your own architectural design it helps to make a model out of cardboard). Cut the paste into flat shapes you can put together after baking. Don't forget to make a soil from the last lump to build your house on. The pieces will swell in the oven so it may be a good idea to cut the edges a little right after they come from the oven and are still soft. Let them cool down and then decorate. Glue the pieces together (and repair the broken ones) with sugar melted on a non-sticky frying pan. You need to be quick, careful and precise with this phase so a calm, grown-up assistant would certainly help. Finally, turn the collapsing side of the house towards a wall and sprinkle some more confectioner's sugar ("snow") over it to cover the ugliest seams.

Nutritional values / 1500 g:
energy 4990 kcal
fat 156 g
protein 87 g
carbohydrates 802 g
fiber 25 g

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