Photo: Carl Sundvik
Decorating a pepparkakshus (gingerbread house) is now considered an essential part of the build-up to Christmas in Sweden, but was only adopted fairly recent. The idea came to Sweden from Germany in the 1880s, when the Brothers Grimm fairy tales with the story "Hansel and Gretel" began to be read in wealthy bourgeois homes, mainly in the cities. It quickly became popular and so these days most families with children will build at least one pepperkakshus.
The recipe below is adapted from Vår Kok Bok (Our Cook Book), Sweden's top selling cookery book, but I have recommended using more icing to create a snow garden.
Of course, you can buy gingerbread house kits, but it is much more fun to make your own so I hope you will give it a go. Actually a pepparkakshus is easy to make, especially if you download our template. If you are feeling really adventurous you can design your own and let you imagination take over. John Duxbury
• It is fun making a pepparkakshus with children or grandchildren, but the glue can burn so it is probably best if an adult glues the pieces together.
• Some parts, especially the walls and door, are easier to ice (frost) before they are glued together.
• If you are tempted to design your own pepparkakshus take a look at of the awarding winning designs from the annual competition organised by The Swedish Centre for Architecture & Design to get some ideas. Click here for details.
• Swedes would normally use either mörk (dark) or ljus (light) syrup, depending on how brown they like their pepparkakshus. For this recipe I think the syrups recommended below are good enough, unless you happen to have some Swedish sirap (syrup) in your cupboard.
|125 g||(⅔ cup)||brown sugar|
|80 g||(5 tbsp)||golden syrup (light corn syrup)|
|40 g||(2 tbsp)||treacle (dark corn syrup)|
|50 g||(3½ tbsp)||butter or margarine|
|½ tbsp||ground ginger|
|½ tbsp||ground cinnamon|
|½ tbsp||ground cloves|
|½ tbsp||bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)|
|500 g||(4 cups)||plain (all-purpose) flour|
Making the parts
1. Mix the sugar, syrup, treacle and butter in a large saucepan. Heat gently until the butter or margarine melts, stirring continuously. Turn off the heat, mix in the the spices and milk. Leave to cool.
2. Mix the bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) with 450 g (3½ cups) of the flour. Add to the saucepan and mix thoroughly to form a firm smooth dough, tipping on to a floured work surface if necessary. Form into a ball and wrap in foil and chill for at least 24 hours.
Above: an outline of the template
3. Click on the link below to download the template and print it out on fairly stiff paper.
4. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F, gas 5, fan 160°C).
5. Knead the dough on a floured worksurface and then roll it out to a thickness of about 2-3 mm (1/8”). Cut a small test piece out and bake for 5 minutes. If it spreads out, add more flour to the dough.
6. Line some baking trays (pans) with baking parchment. Lay the rolled out dough on the parchment. Place the templates on the dough, but not too firmly. Cut round the parts. Remove the excess dough, but try not to move the parts as they easily change shape.
7. Bake large parts for 10-15 minutes and small parts for 5-7 minutes, until a nice golden brown. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes. Use the templates to trim the parts and then leave to cool completely, preferably overnight.
8. Make spares or pepparkakor with the leftover mixture.
Icing the parts
|625 g||(5 cups)||icing (confectioner's) sugar|
|1 tbsp||lemon juice or clear vinegar|
|sweets (candy) of your choice, optional|
The quantities above will make enough icing to make a snow garden as well as icing for the house. If you only want to ice a house, divide the quantities suggested above by 3.
9. Whisk the egg white in a large bowl until frothy. Using a large spoon or a mixer on slow speed, add the icing sugar a tablespoonful at a time. Stir in the lemon juice and beat the icing until it is very stiff and white and stands up in peaks. Cover the surface with a damp cloth whilst not being used.
10. Spoon the icing into a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle and pipe the walls and door, but leave icing the other parts until the house is assembled. (Icing is harder than it looks so, unless you are a very experienced icer, I recommend keeping the design really simple!)
11. Spoon some icing on to a suitable board and landscape as desired to make a snow garden.
Assembling the parts
|200 g||(1 cup)||caster (superfine) sugar|
12. Make the glue by slowly melting the sugar in a saucepan, stirring until it is golden yellow and slightly viscous. Leave the pan on a low heat, to prevent the glue from hardening, whilst you glue the parts together
13. Dip the edges of the walls into the glue, push together and stand up in the icing, using a box or a spare pair of hands for support if necessary. (If the glue begins to set, reheat it gently.)
14. Repeat with the door, roof and chimney, working as quickly as possible so that the glue goes not set.
Photo: Carl Sundvik
15. Ice and decorate the roof and chimney as desired!
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