Chef and entrepreneur Rebecca Ffrench’s love of food runs deep. So much so, that she even decorates her home with edible cookies for the holiday season. Her Norwegian Pepperkaker, or ginger cookies, are not only a (delicious) testament to her love of Scandinavian culture, they double as festive holiday ornaments.
“Distinctly thin and crisp, Pepperkaker are the quintessential Norwegian Christmas cookie,” says Ffrench, founder of The Upstate Table. “Come December, I make dozens of the fragrant cookies, hang them from red satin ribbons, and use them to decorate my tree and even the windows.”
While Ffrench is Norwegian herself, she has strong ties to Scandinavia, specifically Norway. “We have a strong Nordic influence in our studio,” she notes. “Frida, one of our star bakers, is from Iceland, and I attended university in Norway and have returned with my family many times.”
Per Ffrench, Pepperkaker are just one element of the magical holiday season in Norway. “It’s truly my favorite time of year there,” she explains. “While the days are short and sunlight is in short supply, spirits are lifted during during Jultid (Christmastime) — twinkling lights appear, glögg (mulled wine) simmers on stovetops, and holiday treats are baked in abundance.”
While Ffrench makes these cookies with her family every year bar-none, she does offer a word of caution: be careful with pets or critters! “One year, I covered our entire tree with heart-shaped Pepperkaker. We left for a week between Christmas and New Year, and when we returned, the tree was cookie-less,” she says, laughing. “Mice had eaten every last one. But despite our thief (or thieves), we still bake these cookies annually — now we just don’t leave the house!”
Ahead, find Ffrench’s recipe for her all-time favorite holiday treat.
Norwegian Pepperkaker (Ginger Cookies)
Makes 4 to 5 dozen 2-inch cookies
3-½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup dark molasses
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
White Royal Icing for decorating
In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and pepper.
Bring a pan to medium heat and add the butter, molasses, and sugar. Stir constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Remove from heat and whisk in the cream until fully incorporated. Stir in the dry ingredients until a dough forms. Form two disks with the dough and wrap in plastic. Chill overnight, or a minimum of three hours. (You can also put it in the freezer to chill more quickly.)
After the dough has chilled and you’re ready to roll out your cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll out one dough disk on a lightly floured surface until it’s ⅛ inch thick. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters. If you’re going to use the cookies as ornaments, use a wooden skewer or straw to make a small hole at the top of each before baking. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets and place them ½ inch apart.
Bake for 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat the rolling, cutting, baking, and cooling process with the second disk of chilled dough.
Decorate with royal icing to your liking and enjoy!