Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Piparkukas - Latvian Pepper Cookies

As a child, Christmas meant piragi and piparkukas. Piparkukas translates from the Latvian as 'pepper cookies'. They don't contain pepper, but are fantastic, lightly spiced biscuits. Brilliantly easy to make as the dough is very difficult to overwork and actually responds well to being a little warm. Great for kids to make with a little supervision.

I am sure that this recipe is probably not entirely authentic, but it works well and turns out something that is very similar to what my Granny makes. The quantities quoted below makes  approximately two dozen small biscuits. Feel free to up the quantities and keep the dough (well wrapped) in the fridge. It will last about a week. One Latvian recipe I found gives you the quantities for seven pounds of dough...so evidently you can't make too much! Bring up to room temperature before rolling out or you'll be cursing it.

100g golden syrup
100g dark brown soft sugar
100g butter (or if you want to be authentic, 50g butter and 50g lard)
2 egg yolks
350g plain flour
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground coriander
1tsp ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
Zest of one lemon

Melt the syrup and butter and stir in the spices. Put this into a large bowl and mix in the remaining ingredients until you have a fairly stiff dough. I actually do this using the dough hook in my Kenwood Chef, but it is relatively easy to bring together by hand, and as I've said, pretty difficult to overwork.


The dough is much easier to work with whilst it is slightly warm, which it will be at this point. Lightly flour your work surface, take a workable amount of dough, and roll it out to about 3mm. Cut out your preferred shapes using a cutter. Smaller shapes always seems to work well, and you don't want anything too fiddly as the dough is so thin.


Lift the shapes on to a baking sheet using your fingers or a palette knife. They don't spread at all when baking so you can put them quite close together. If you want a luxurious finish you can glaze them at this point using egg white whisked with a teaspoon of sugar. I tend not to bother...if you do, be sparing as you don't want to weld them to the tray. Gather together the remaining dough and re roll.

I cook these for about 4 - 5 minutes in an 180 degree centigrade oven, but this is something you will need to experiment with as it will depend on your oven. It can take as little as 3 minutes and they can catch quite easily. You're looking for a biscuit with a good snap once cooled. 

 
The biscuits keep well (as long as you don't tell anyone you've made them). You can of course ice them if you choose, and you can also punch holes in them before baking and then hang them as Christmas tree decorations.


21 comments:

  1. Thanks for this amazing recipe!
    I got one for you to exchange the favour:)
    Check this out!
    http://www.radicaldiningsociety.com/item/760-Sweet_Xmas_Italian_Style

    Happy Holidays!!!!
    Alessandra xx

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  2. Sounds fantastic! Thanks Alessandra :)

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  3. I lived in Latvia for a while and loved them! I'll try this recipe soon))

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  4. I'm going to have a go at these today - I am of Latvian heritage so they will have an authentic test! If it works well I am going to get all the pupils at my school to bake them and give as presents to their mums and dads!

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    1. Hahaha, thanks dad. You've eaten enough of them when you've been visiting!!

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  5. Hi Darling...


    few corrections- they do have black pepper, secondly - after making the dough - it needs to rest in the freezer for few months, thirdly - its a boiling dough - you mak eit in your sauce pan :)

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    1. I agree. My Latvian recipe does have black pepper too.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. 22:06
      Hello, thank you for your feedback. I think like all these things, there are several ways to get to the same end point. Both my Latvian grannies did not freeze the dough, so I do not either. I'm sure every family recipe has different spicing too. I'd be interested to see your recipe if you'd like to share it xxx

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  7. Thank you. Very easy to make. Very tasty piparkukas. Anna U.K.

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  8. Dear Pupkin
    Is that why piparkukas are made at Christmas? They wouldn't have freezers so they would have to wait for the deep Latvian winter before they could rest their dough... :)

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  9. I've done a lot of googling on these and haven't seen any recipes with black pepper or longer than usual freezing times.

    I did find a frying pan method though:
    https://bakingaroundtheworld.wordpress.com/tag/latvian-spice-cookies/

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  10. My cookies puffed up. I'm sure they'll still taste good, but not what I was expecting!

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    1. Hi Meanie, you should get a really tiny rise, but not so much they 'puff'. Can I check that you used flour without raising agent (plain flour/all purpose flour) and only a teaspoon each of bicarb and cream of tartar? I hope they still taste nice.

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    2. Sorry Melanie for getting your name wrong... The perils of writing these things on my phone whilst my 2 year old tries to help!

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  11. At my school each class made piparkukas with this recipe. Some of the classes didn't roll the dough out thinly enough and they ended up softer and more like the German style gingerbread. Some classes did an excellent job and also decorated them with a bit of plain icing and they looked very festive. We gave them to the parents at our Carol concert and they were very popular.

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  12. Hi all,
    I have been professional baker in Latvia, so the Piparkukas must contain 1 black pepper, 1 allspice, 1 cloves, 1 cardamom, 0.5 coriander, 0.5 nutmeg and 4 cinnamon. All rest not important and may varying. Of Course you don't need to freeze it for two months.

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  13. I have made piparkūkas for years as I am of Latvian heritage. I have always added white pepper They are after all piparkukas. Piparkukas translates as pepper cookies.

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  14. Lovely to hear from you Ilze. It's great to hear of all the different spice mixes that different families use.

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