It’s time. Some can’t wait, some try to ignore it, but there’s no way around it (at least in my part of the world): Xmas is coming. And so, it’s time once again to re-blog that post about pebernødder, and the recipe that go with it.
OK, so the video quality sucks, and the audio could be better, but Bruce comes right through anyway. This is a great performance, with stellar work by Clarence Clemmons on the sax.
Back in the early 80s I had a radio promo single of this one; We played it over and over at school xmas parties. I was a true Springsteen fan back then. Most of that is gone now, but I’m still a sucker for vintage Bruce, and I love this one.
I posted the other day about our Christmas tradition of making pabernødder, but I failed to post the recipe I use. You’ve complained, and rightly so. So, without further ado …
- 250g butter
- 2 1/4 dl sugar
- 1 tbsp treacle (or syrup)
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp clove
- black pepper to taste
- 375g flour
(EDIT (2016): You may find the result too heavy with real butter. In Denmark we can buy margarine made for baking. I find I like the result better using that, especially margarine of the brand “Oma”).
Whip sugar and butter thoroughly. Beat egg into mix (if you’re doubling up the recipe, beat one egg into mix at a time). Add baking soda, spices, flour. Put dough in fridge for a bit – it’s easier to work with when below room temperature. Take a small portion of dough, roll gently to form a bar, 1-2 cm thick. Cut into even pieces, again 1-2 cm. Distribute pieces evenly on pan. Do not worry about shape, they melt while baking and get a roundish shape. Bake for about 15 mins at 150 degC, on a high shelf in the oven. The cookies must darken to light brown. Take from oven and remove from pan to cool; they are a bit soft when taken from the oven, but turn crispy as they cool. Now repeat with as many pans as you have dough for.
I use three times the amount above for the portion show in the previous blog entry.
Of course, being traditional cookies, there’s about as many recipes as there are Danes. My mum had another but mostly bought pebernødder so I have little experience with hers. My mother in law use one that result in pebernødder that are smaller, lighter, and much harder. The one I use my wife picked up during university days from our friend Søren, who had it from his mother. It right away became the house favourite; by now we’ve been using it for 20+ year. Tip-of-the-hat to Søren’s mother.
For me, Christmas is a time of traditions; food, cakes, decorations, things we do – lots of traditions small and not-so-small. I always liked these traditions, and I find that I enjoy passing them on to my kid. There’something about having the same decoration up, or throwing the same party, or making the same cookies, year after year, that feels good. And it’s fun to see how early kids start to recognize this and enjoy it – even (or maybe in particular?) in a household where few things are “by the book”.
One of the traditions that kicks off the season is the advent calendar. They can be really simple – a piece of decorated cardboard with cut-outs you can open and find a picture ore similar each day, or they can be really elaborate. with wrapped presents, one for each of the days 1-24 December.
This year, ours look like this:
As a kid, I had an advent calendar with presents. Small things – a couple of pens, a few Legos, etc – but the excitement from waking up each day and rushing to see what was there was more about the warm feeling of a present each day than what was actually there. I get the same with my kid, even if our presents are more elaborate than what I had then. The advent calendar has grown to be an important item in her Christmas.
Happily, it’s fun to make, and it’s fun to have the little ceremony of opening presens each morning. In not-so-many-years it will be of no interest to her anymore, so I’m going to enjoy as much as I can while I have the chance. Not that the advent calendars ever goes away entirely if I can help it; I one for my wife, too, but with a present for each of the four Sundays of Advent.
Pebernødder (pepper nuts) is a traditional Danish Christmas cookie. It’s a small, crunchy, light cookie, slightly spicy. Like most things traditional, there’s lots of variation, but they usually involve cinnamon, ginger and pepper. Some like to make them hard (like real nuts), mine are more crispy.
In my famlly, pebbernødder is always the first cookie we do. We make a huge batch as the season is getting started, ready for the first seasonal get-together. The batch is made so that pebernødder can be a steady ingredient of family and social life all through December.
(pebernødder piled up for cooling)
Since pebernødder is the first cookie we do for the season, baking them is special. Baking is always fun, and a great way to spend time with kids. Baking Pebernødder involves a lot of simple, repeated tasks, easily done by kids – and the result is quick in coming, and tasty. In Denmark, winter is mostly dark and cold, and so we enjoy cozy, relaxed activities we can do together indoors – “hygge”, we call it. This is probably why we like the xmas season; it’s a chance to do a lot of things we like doing anyway.
Baking pebernødder is traditionally the first xmas thing we do, and it’s certainly fun and relaxed. You get to spend a lot of time together, talking, drinking tea, collaborating. And we get in the mood for all the other traditions coming up for the season. A nice time for the grownups, and kids love it.
(Done: 2 kg pebernødder. Xmas can begin)
(Update: recipe here)