Sunday, 6 January 2013

Bake Piparkakut (Gingersnaps) for Epiphany

Epiphany, also known as Kings Day, is a Christian holy day that is traditionally observed on Jan. 6, bringing the 12 days of Christmas to a close. Epiphany marks the day that Jesus was made manifest, or shown to the Gentiles in the persons of the Magi from the East.

Celebrations vary from country to country and most of us are familiar with Kings Cake, a spicy gateaux in which a bean (or other small object, depending on the country and its tradition) is hidden. The person who finds the bean is then hailed as King (or Queen) for the day.

Charlie broke his cookie in three pieces.
He wished for more cookies!
But this blog is about cookies, so I decided to make Rovastin piparkakut (Finnish Gingerbread) today. These cookies, usually made in the shape of a six-pointed star, recall the costly spices brought by the Wise Men with their robust, ginger flavor. In Sweden,  Pepparkakor, as they are called, can appear as early as Dec. 13, or St. Lucy's Day. Here they are made in the shapes of little people, goats, pigs, and hearts.

But Piparkakut (or piparkakku) are typically cut into the shape of a star, to represent the star that the Magi followed. There is a delightful tradition of placing the cookie in the palm of one hand and breaking it with the index finger or thumb of the other hand, while making a silent wish. If the Piparkakut should break into three pieces, and all three be eaten without saying a word, the wish is supposed to come true.

Recipes naturally vary but most contain ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. Cardamom is a popular addition, as well. Many recipes use ground, dried Seville orange peel or orange extract. Having none of these on hand, I chose to use lemon zest in mine. They were fragrant and tasty and went down a treat with a cup of tea. However you make them, the ginger and citrus in these crisp little cookies are somehow restorative and very satisfying.

Unfortunately, Epiphany is also the day that the Christmas tree is traditionally taken out of the house. And I'm going to do that. Right after I have a few more Piparkakut ...

Use baking soda, not baking powder.

Piparkakut (Wishing Cookies to the kids)

3 1/4 c all-pupose flour
1 tsp baking soda (the first picture shows powder; trust me, it's soda)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 c margarine or butter
1 1/2 c sugar
1 large egg
2 Tbsp molasses
1 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp finely grated orange or lemon zest
Use a wire whisk to "sift" together
dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until softened.

Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg, molasses, water and zest; beat well.

Gradually add flour mixture, beating until well mixed. Cover and chill at least two hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. On lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness.

Cut with star cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper).

Bake until done, about 8 minutes. Remove immediately to wire rack for cooling.

NOTE: These can be served plain (my preference) or piped with Icing: Stir together 2 c sifted confectioner's sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla and about 2 Tbsp milk.

This stack would go well with a cup of tea before taking the tree out.


  1. Your cookies sound delicious, and they look so pretty too! I was interested to learn about the traditions behind them. Thank you for sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul hop :)

    1. Thanks, April! I love your blog and I always find interesting photos and stories from others who share there.

  2. I so enjoy food with stories or beautiful symbolism -- this is a great, tasty tradition, easy to get kids involved in the process. Way fun!

  3. I love this! We celebrate epiphany with our family, but not many people do. It is always fun to see how others celebrate this holiday. Thanks for sharing your recipe with the Hearth and Soul Hop. I’ve pinned this to my Pinterest board.

  4. Judy, I love finding out new things about food and sharing it with my family. The added bonus, as you say, are the stories and memories we make along the way. Thanks!

    Thanks, Alea, I'd love to see how you and yours celebrate Epiphany! And I'm going to Pinterest now to see your boards!