This time of year is conflicting.
On the one hand, I could live without the cold, the miserable weather, the really short days, the feeling of never being quite warm enough.
On the other hand, I love the christmas lights everywhere, I love the holiday baking and the holiday spirit, and I love how Swedish I get to be around this time of year. But that right there is the bittersweet part – it also makes me miss Sweden so much.
Two years ago (Wow.. Already?), I was studying abroad in Stockholm and it was the first time in a long time that I loved winter. Like, actually loved. Not the quick love affairs that comes when there’s a beautiful snow storm that ends once the snow turns to brown mush, or the tolerance that comes from the knowledge that spring might be around the corner. I actually didn’t mind the cold. I loved the snow that was on the ground for nearly 2 months. I loved walking around, despite the fact that at 4pm it was pitch black and felt like it was closer to 10/11pm. I loved it.
I had been to Sweden over a dozen times before (almost every time in the summer), to visit family and friends, but this was the first time I was on my own in the country for 4 months, living in my favorite city in the world. That, coupled with the amazing ways us Swedes approach the holidays, meant that there was no choice in my love. See this love?
So some ways we approach the holidays/impending darkness: Tea lights, glögg (spiced wine), baked goods, family and friends, beautiful christmas markets, christmas lights on all the streets.. This is only a fraction but that’s not what this blog post is supposed to be entirely about.
Anyway. Baked goods. Right. Sorry. I could literally write pages and pages about my time in Sweden. (Oh wait, I already did. I filled a 300 page diary with memories and scrapbook like things. But that’s for my eyes only, sorry.)
There are a lot of Swedish baked goods that I love this time of year, and I’ll be sure to share them with you. But my favorite cookie is pepparkakor – aka Swedish gingerbread/gingersnaps. It has a wonderful spice to it, and unlike the often weird tasting soft American gingerbread, this cookie is crisp, light, and delicious.
So, when the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap came around, there was no other option in my mind. These cookies can last for weeks, they can ship relatively well, and they’re so fun and festive. And if I could share a bit of my love for my culture with others and maybe show them a cookie they might only associate with a store bought brand? Then that’s even better.
For those of you who don’t know, the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap is a huge thing. 575 people from 8 different countries signed up this year. Not only do we get to swap cookies and recipes and connect with other food bloggers, but we also raise money for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Each blogger had to donate $4 to join, and OXO® promised to match dollar for dollar up to $100,000. It was a great thing to be a part of. I got to send cookies to three great bloggers: Sarah from The Frosted Kitchen, Amber from Slim Pickin’s Kitchen, and Felicia from love.life.eat. I also got to get delicious delicious cookies from three other bloggers: Kara from Domestic Endeavors, Erin from eat bake drink cook, and Julie from Savvy Eats. Let’s just say that those three days where I got a package everyday was the best. three. days. ever. Though my jeans aren’t thanking me. 3-4 cookies with each meal might sound excessive but it was oh so worth it.
So worth it. And a HUGE thank you to Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil and Julie from The Little Kitchen for hosting this and coordinating hundreds of food bloggers. Seriously. This was a great experience, and I’m already counting down to next year.
Now, I present to you, my contribution to the cookie swap:
Pepparkakor: Swedish Gingersnaps
yield: depends on size of cookie cutters (mine made ~50-60 regular size and ~30 mini size)
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
1/2 scant cup water
14 tablespoons (7 oz) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 cups flour (+more for rolling)
In a medium pot, add sugar, corn syrup, and water, and bring the mixture to a boil.
In a large mixing bowl, place the butter and spices in and set aside. Pour the hot sugar mixture over the butter and spices. Stir until the butter is melted. Let cool.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking soda, and whisk together. Slowly add the flour to the melted butter & sugar mixture, stopping to mix and incorporate the flour into the dough. Knead lightly until it forms a smooth dough, but be careful not to overwork. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or at least 7-8 hours.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Roll out a small amount of dough at a time on a floured surface. Keep the unused dough in the fridge until needed. Cut out shapes in the dough with cookie cutters.
Place the cookies on a cold, greased baking sheet. Bake on the middle oven shelf for 6-8 minutes, until the cookies are golden and not too soft in the center.
Be careful – they burn easily.
[source: Adapted from Served from the Swedish Kitchen]