Like every other Christmas baking tradition, there are a million different "authentic" recipes for Pepperkaker (pepper cake) out there. Norway claims to be the birthplace or at least experts, but don't tell the Swedes or Danes that little tidbit. I don't care who makes it or how, there's nothing quite like spicy, crispy, gingery pepperkaker.
You know this as gingerbread. We cut out "man" shapes but do not decorate. Decorating is for sugar cookies at our house, which will be in a few days. I roll out my pepperkaker fairly thin to make them crispy and light. I really wish I had a pig-shaped cookie cutter, apparently that's a traditional shape. Fun!
I made a double batch of the following recipe. 3/4 of it was rolled and cut into man-shapes, and 1/4 is rolled into a log and sitting in the fridge to be sliced and dusted with sparkly white sugar. Ok, fine, there's some decorating for you.
Pepperkaker needs to be spicy! Don't skimp on the spices. And this year I substituted something with good results - I did not have lemons in the house and therefore could not use grated lemon peel. BUT, I always have a supply of essential oils around here, and I used Lemon Essential Oil from www.beeyoutiful.com in place of the lemon peel - AWESOME.
2/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 tablespoons cream or half-and-half
2 tablespoons dark molasses
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground!)
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel (or 10 drops essential oil of lemon)
1 teaspoon baking soda
In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Add cream and molasses, beat well. Combine spices and flour and baking soda, add to wet mixture and stir well to combine. Roll into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour. Roll out thinly, about 1/8 inch, and cut into shapes. Place on parchment covered baking sheets and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes until firm but not brown. Cool completely. Another great cookie to freeze!