The other night my husband munched one of the pepparkakor cookies that I had baked with the expert help our five year old daughter. When we crawled under the covers and kissed goodnight, I smiled. The cardamom,cinnamon, cloves and ginger put a little extra zing into our nighttime ritual. “Yum,” I said, “pepparkakor kisses.”
Pepparkakors are one of our holiday traditions. I learned of these delicious cookies the first time I met my husband’s parents. I walked into their home and was greeted with smiles, warm welcomes, and a kitchen full of home-baked cookies and sweets, the stars of which were the pepparkakors. I decided then that even if things didn’t work out between me and my husband-to-be, I was getting that recipe. Fortunately things worked out.
When I am baking in the kitchen I am connecting with my family in so many ways. When I include my daughter in these culinary rituals I hope that she is forming the same kinds of connections with her family. In the kitchen. Through food.
Food. It’s the bane of my existence in so many ways—I eat way too much of it and not enough of the right kinds, yet it is one of the strongest connections to my past and my family heritage. So many conversations with my Mom happened in the kitchen. If I’m missing my mom, I’ll open up the old red-and-white-checked Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that belonged to her, and turn to the page with the most drips and spills, and cook. If I want to go further back, I retrieve my maternal Grandmother’s 1941 Westinghouse cookbook and bake biscuits, the only thing missing is the smell of the kitchen in the back of her house in Jacksonville, FL, and the unmatchable click of the aluminum cups and porcelain-covered metal counter. If I want to connect with the Spanish heritage on my dad’s side, I get out my mom’s recipe for Picadillo. Pretty much every Sunday we are treated to roll-up pancakes (aka Swedish pancakes) prepared by my husband and his young, but able, assistant, connecting us to his childhood rituals. The plan is to have her making roll-up pancakes for us one day!
This year it’s pepparkakors and cardamom that have my attention as I seek to connect. My husband tells of a bakery that he used to go to in Rockford where you could get traditional Swedish cardamom rolls. He often speaks longingly and lovingly for those rolls. So I searched the internet and collected assorted recipes for cardamom bread and rolls. The bread recipes seem the most traditional, so I am opting for braided loaves instead of rolls, but hopefully the taste will connect him with those wonderful memories. And, hopefully, baking bread in the kitchen with Mom will help my daughter make some wonderful memories of her own.
So, as I prepare my shopping list for baking, I’m thinking of family, past and present, and I am munching on a pepparkakor.
Below is the recipe that our family uses for pepparkakors. This particular recipe comes from a wonderful Swedish cook and is over 100 years old.
1 c. butter, 1.5 c. sugar, 2.5 c. flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 beaten egg, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. cloves, 1 tsp. ginger, 1 tsp. cardamom.
Mix ingredients in the order listed. Chill dough overnight. The next day, roll the dough out (VERY thinly). Cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes. Decorate with sugar sprinkles before baking (you can brush the cookies with milk to help the sprinkles stick). Makes about 6 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cutouts. Keep a close eye on the cookies while baking, they are thin and burn easily.
Enjoy and may your New Year be filled with pepparkakor kisses!
©2011 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.