I love baking gingerbread cookies. “Paraisten piparkakut” is my heirloom recipe and it’s the one and only gingerbread recipe for me. My mother wrote it down in the 1960s when she was studying all things home economics as a young adult. These are classic Finnish gingerbread cookies with original history. Once you try these, you want to bake them every Christmas.
How would I describe these gingerbread cookies? The first bite is crispy but then the cookie melts in the mouth. Not soft, not crunchy hard but crispy and tender. Interested?
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Since I know and trust this recipe inside and out, I’ve decided to thoroughly bake it with you. In this post, you find the recipe ingredients and the process with casual baking photos. End of the post, you’ll also find more history about this recipe which dates back to the 1910s, and tips on how to make it your own. But that is not all!
In this second post, I have showcase photos on how to read a gingerbread cookie and troubleshoot your problem. Yes, absolutely you should know how to read a gingerbread cookie and learn how to bake perfect gingerbread cookies! Gingerbread cookie dough is pretty flexible and not hard to manage at all when you understand the recipe. So click here to open the useful Gingerbread Cookie Help Guide to another browser window.
The recipe yields approximately >2 kilos of cookie dough
I recommend using cutters of different sizes so that you can maximize the use of a rolled surface. Baking cookies of a similar size on one baking tray gives the best results. It’s a good idea to rotate 3-4 baking trays when baking the whole recipe.
Please do check the list for baking tools from the recipe’s end notes.
Finnish Gingerbread Cookies – Paraisten piparkakut
500g butter 200g + 200g caster sugar 200g dark syrup 1 tsp cinnamon 1,5 tsp ground ginger 2 tsp ground cloves 1 tbsp bitter orange peel powder 3-4 tsp baking soda (I had 17g) 3 eggs (mine were 178g in total) 700g all-purpose flour + safe extra 300g flour for working the dough BAKING DAY TOOLS YOU NEED: a medium-sized pan, a medium and large bowl, a hand mixer, spoon, spatulas, cookie cutters, rolling pin(s), baking trays with parchment paper, a cheese slicer, extra desk space for cooling cookies, storage box
200g + 200g caster sugar
200g dark syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1,5 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp bitter orange peel powder
3-4 tsp baking soda (I had 17g)
3 eggs (mine were 178g in total)
700g all-purpose flour + safe extra 300g flour for working the dough
TOOLS YOU NEED: a medium-sized pan, a medium and large bowl, a hand mixer, spoon, spatulas, cookie cutters, rolling pin(s), baking trays with parchment paper, a cheese slicer, extra desk space for cooling cookies, storage box
Do’s and Don’ts of baking Gingerbread Cookies
My take on gingerbread dough is twofold. With the homemade dough, I can enjoy the maximum flavor and perfect tender cookie texture. The commercial frozen dough, on the other hand, is best for making a gingerbread house. These are two totally different animals! I recommend enjoying my dough recipe only to make delicious Christmas cookies and not using it as building blocks.
Whether you’re baking alone or with kids, there are few things to keep in mind when baking gingerbread cookies. Here are the general do’s and don’ts of baking gingerbread cookies:
- Always roll a piece of cold dough and not the whole dough at once.
- Always place the cut dough shapes on a cold baking tray.
- Do bake dough shapes of similar size together.
- If your cutter has sharp narrow corners, be careful not to burn the cookies.
- Do not leave the oven alone! Gingerbread cookies bake fast!
- Do not use a wire rack for cooling individual cookies, cool cookies flat instead.
- Do flour your rolling pin and working desk generously.
- Check the full gingerbread cookie help guide here.
And as always, bake with quality ingredients. Choose fresh flour and spices. With cinnamon, I always go with organic Ceylon cinnamon which has lighter and citrus-like notes while having less coumarin. If you’re not sure of your cinnamon status, please check these brands for example: Anthony’s Organic Ceylon Cinnamon Powder, 1 lb, Ground, Gluten Free, Non GMO, Non Irradiated, Keto Friendly* and Frontier Co-op Organic Fair Trade Ground Ceylon Cinnamon 5.57oz*.
The history behind the recipe
Remember how back in the day recipes were named after a location or a person who invented them? This is the story here. The recipe is called “Paraisten piparkakut” as my mother’s handwriting states. The direct translation for gingerbread cookie from Finnish is piparkakku and the first word refers to the geographical birthplace of the recipe, a town called Parainen on the west coast Finnish archipelago.
However, there are many versions under this exact recipe name. It’s famous and loved by many generations since Lyydia Ekroos made this recipe in the 1910s. In the old days, unique recipes were a secret worth of money and so was this gingerbread recipe. The recipe was later sold to a bakery but nowadays these cookies are no longer available commercially.
Actually, the story goes on that the first authentic recipe is still a secret even though a multitude of versions of the original is to be found.
So what’s is the thing about these classic gingerbread cookies that makes them more popular and famous than any other gingerbread cookies? I have a theory and it’s called lots of butter and a bit more eggs than usual! :D
Honestly, this is a really nice dough to work with. The initial 700g of flour is a good base for the test bake. Observe how your flour and dough behaves in the oven. Add more if needed but do not work the dough all the way. As you roll and cut the dough multitude of times, it will also accumulate more flour during the baking process.
How to make this recipe your own?
A recipe is always a starting point. I recommend you make a test bake with this recipe as is & then adjust the spices with additional flour. For example, I use an extra a bit more of each spice because I like gingerbread cookies a tad more fierce.
When it comes to a classic old gingerbread recipe, bitter orange peel powder is The Thing. Using this spice in Nordic gingerbread cookies is very common but I guess if you can’t source the bitter orange peel powder, you can go with normal orange peel powder such as Frontier Co-op Organic Ground Orange Peel 1lb*.
What other spices to use in gingerbread dough? A little bit of cardamom or black pepper will bring more kick. Substituting some of the caster sugar with unrefined coconut sugar brings also nice notes.
What about fewer spices? Gingerbread cookies do include cinnamon but it’s not the hero behind this cookie as mentioned. Please be brave. Because the recipe includes baking soda, I don’t recommend using less spices without decreasing also the amount of baking soda and this will also affect the baking result.
For crispy and tender cookie texture, I suggest keeping other ingredients constant and following the baking process. If you must, you can substitute baking soda with baking powder but double the amount of baking powder.
To make really thin and crispy gingerbread cookies, roll the last piece of dough 2mm thick. Bake the cookies 200C for few minutes without blinking your eyes! If you want to make a whole batch of thin cookies, use little less egg & leavening as mentioned to achieve even crisper cookies. Baking really thin crispy gingerbread cookie variation is advanced, I recommend you bake this recipe the normal way first.
Originally my mom has written that the dough shapes should be 0,5cm thick. Well, that’s too thick for me! I prefer the 0,3cm thickness and a steady rise at lower oven temperature.
I hope you enjoy this recipe!