I decided the bonus recipes just had to include obscure, possibly undiscovered or mentally passed over gems of destination. Iceland definitely fits that description!
An island that is quite the distance from its neighbors in every single direction, Iceland has quite a food history. Albeit heavily influenced by other countries like Denmark or any of the Scandinavian countries, but they had to put their own twist on everything for the sake of preservation. Literally. They had to learn how to preserve with either salt or sugar nearly every dish that someone brought with them to the island. Especially if they were planning on setting sail again and not starving to death. They had to have food that would last their long westward or eastward journey. They became fond of portable foods.
Times have sure changed. Now the local chefs try to work with local, sustainable foods that are produced ONLY on the island to avoid issues of running out of things like, quark for instance. They came up with their own version of cheese much like quark, but made in Iceland and called skyr. Skyr is a bit more smooth than quark and comes in a variety of flavors but...skyr is just one example of how Iceland was trying (and succeeded) to make imported foods irrelevant to their survival. But, no matter how far off the beaten path they refuse to go for certain things they won't deny themselves certain treats at Christmas!
One treat that every móðir makes for Christmas is a fabulous ginger cookie they call piparkökur. Literally translated piparkökur means "gingerbread". Simple right? NOT! This cookie isn't merely gingerbread, this cookie has black pepper AND paprika. !!! I KNOW! What?! "What?!" is RIGHT! I spent 3 or 4 days deciding if I should make this recipe or not. I love a great gingerbread cookie, it is something I absolutely expect to have at least once between December 1st and Christmas Day and if I don't, I feel like Christmas didn't happen.
Extreme...I know. I spent most of my day today flip flopping back and forth between piparkökur and spesiur (basically a butter cookie). I've been down the butter cookie road before. I know spesiur are made every Christmas as well and they may appeal to a large audience because they are fairly benign in flavor, but I'd rather shake things up in the kitchen. I made these this evening and the final confirmation that I went in the right direction was the Sprout begging for one and saying "Mmmmm!!" after his first bite. When he will eat it, I know I've found a winning recipe. Please take a chance on this recipe and I promise your heart will be shouting "Gleðileg Jól!!" and your tummy will thank you profusely.
U.S. measurements appear first followed by the European weights in
parenthesis, unless only U.S. measurements were given. I weighed the
amounts out first, then measured them with U.S. measuring cups and
spoons. You can thank me later.
2 sticks + 2 T. (18 T.) unsalted butter (250g)
2 1/4 c. + 1 1/2 T. + 1/4 tsp. brown sugar (500g)
2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika
5 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3 1/4 c. + 1 tsp. flour (500g)
sugar for tops of cookies, optional
Preheat oven to 390 F (200 C)
In a large mixing bowl cream together butter and sugar. Add in eggs one at a time, beating until each one is fully incorporated. In a medium sized bowl sift together flour, soda, powder, and spices. Add the flour mixture to the large bowl with the creamed mixture.
Making 1 T. size balls of dough, dip the tops of each ball of dough into sugar and when the whole pan has been dipped in sugar, mash the balls down slightly with a flat object. I used a large drinking glass.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they seem to start to "fall" in the oven. Remove from the oven to cooling rack. If they got too brown in the oven, remove from the pan after 1 minute. If they were just right, allow them to cool on the pan until they are cool enough to move off of the pan with your bare hands; 2-3 minutes. (Remember that the cookies sitting on the pan are still cooking, so if you've over baked them allowing them ANY standing time is awful risky unless you enjoy very crispy cookies!)
I used my medium sized Pampered Chef scoop and got just under 4 dozen cookies. If you used the small sized PC scoop, you would like have gotten nearer to 8 dozen very tiny (ginger snap sized) cookies. Plan accordingly.
Trying not to eat all of these in one sitting was quite the challenge. The original recipe called for refrigerating these cookies in a tube like shape and then cutting 2mm thick slices and baking them. But, when I finished my dough it seemed quite sturdy. To me refrigerating something means your fats are most likely not stable enough to bake without causing your cookie to be a flat pancake mess on your tray. So, I took a leap and did a whole pan with my PC scoop, the tops dipped in sugar, and flattened slightly with a glass and VOILA! Perfection. NO refrigeration required. The black pepper gives them an extra little kick with the sharp nip of ginger. I am not sure that the paprika really affects this cookie one way or the other...perhaps it enhanced the color?? All in all, who cares?! The cookie is a masterpiece and I'm begging you to try it just once. I guarantee you this recipe will most likely replace your old favorite from the gingerbread category and hey...be quite the conversation starter at any cookie exchange!