These cookies are the final treat that Woody baked for the Broomball Retreat. Taking the cookies to the retreat was a way to intermingle Woody's three loves: baking, t'ai chi (the source of the recipe), and broomball. It's a versatile recipe too because it can be a dessert, a snack, and an appetizer. I think that he quadrupled the recipe, which yielded roughly a billion cookies. (Four times sixty equals a billion, right?)
I had already promised Woody that I had everything he needed for the pepparkakors, including a vast quantity of paper towel and toilet paper cardboard rolls. But when I went through my spice jars, I realized that I had only whole cloves. "Don't worry, I'll just grind them up." I got out my coffee mill/spice grinder. You may not know this, but grinding whole cloves makes a terrible racket. It's also not very successful.
"Don't worry, I'll just put them through a sieve." Meanwhile, Rose had been consulted. She said, "Tell Marie the grinder won't get them fine enough." Woody told Rose that Marie was sometimes brighter than she appeared. Well, I don't really know what he said because I was concentrating on the cloves.
If you look very closely, you can see specks of some dark spice, but it's more likely black pepper, which was ground in a pepper mill, than the cloves. We opted to make the "Hot Nick Pepparkakor" variation, which, now that I've tried it, I like better than the non-cayenne version, especially if you're using some of the cookies as a base for appetizers.
Rose's recipe is from a traditional Norwegian recipe, although my research says that the Norwegian spelling is "pepperkaker," and the Swedish version is spelled "pepparkakor." Both versions are spice cookies (some Americans call them gingerbread cookies, although not all recipes contain ginger), and they vary in the specifics, but they all contain pepper (or peppar). My pepper grinder is the tall brass thing, which I got in Greece years ago.
I think all the recipes also contain molasses. This is when Woody told me that I really should have light molasses because full-flavored would be too strong. Although light molasses is specified in the Molasses Crumb Cakelets, which I actually baked after these, this recipe only says "molasses," and that's what I had. We decided that we'd use Lyle's Golden Syrup as a partial substitute--I prefer that flavor anyway.
We made four 5-inch by 4-inch rectangles. I don't think Woody even measured these, but he assured me he's made these so many times he doesn't have to measure. (Don't try this at home, kids--you should measure).
Woody cleverly uses the pepper mill to tamp down the cookie dough. That is not my hairy hand.
We let the dough logs freeze overnight, and we rewarded ourselves for all our hard work with beer (Woody and Jim) and wine (me). We got pretty jolly. But we got serious again the next day because we were going to cut and bake the billion cookies. I think I must have exaggerated; it was not quite a million.
Sprinkling the cookies with Demerara sugar is the most fun part of making these cookies, even more fun than squishing them in the tubes with the pepper grinder.
Even though they didn't look perfectly uniform going into the oven, they seemed better after they'd flattened out a bit, and even looked a little more circular.
All packed up to go to Brainerd, the home of Paul Bunyan. Unless you say that Bemidji is the home of Paul Bunyan. There's a bitter rivalry here, with each town having its own statute and claiming to be the original. If you go to either city, don't say, "People, Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox, Babe, are legends! They didn't really exist! You can't be home to them." I can kind of see why you'd want to claim Babe, though--you don't see a blue ox every day.
To my surprise, Woody brought quite a few cookies back home. A few dozen anyway. I used almost all of them as appetizers, spread with goat cheese and topped with fig jam. This is a very good, very simple appetizer, and if you freeze some, you can bring them out at a moment's notice--if you also happen to have goat cheese and fig jam on hand, which is not totally out of the question.
Since I first got this recipe as a Beta Baker, I've made these often enough that I always have a stash of cardboard rolls. They make a good addition to the holiday cookie plate, although you may want to stay away from the cayenne if you're serving to the faint of palate.