Monday, 22 September 2014

Fictional Food Adventure: Making Pippi Longstocking's Heart-Shaped Ginger Snap Biscuits

Astrid Lindgren's stories about Pippi Longstocking are so full of lovely food that her books inspired 3 recipes in 'Turkish Delight and Treasure Hunts'. As I have already made her big cream cake, I decided that a quiet kitchen-Sunday was the ideal time to try out her Ginger Snap biscuits. Andy and I had enjoyed a busy Saturday out visiting family and had set Sunday aside for being at home. With Autumn showing its dear face once again I am embracing my favourite season by stocking up the freezer with soups and stew, so we were in the kitchen all day, chopping and stirring and surrounded by happily bubbling pots and pans.

Thanks to Andy's new interest in spices, we had all the ingredients ready to make these biscuits, including really proper Maple Syrup, which we had ever since we got interested in Canadian pancakes.

I wasn't too sure about adding all the spices, as I am not a fan of cinnamon or cloves, as they are usually overwhelming. But I remained faithful to the recipe and Andy kindly ground up the cloves and opened up some Cardamom pods to grind the little black seeds. I love Cardamom. I feel so cosy and refreshed whenever I smell it. It's like the spice equivalent of Lemon. The recipe also included ginger, of course, but not very much, so I was intrigued to see how they'd taste.

The recipe was fairly simple. melting down sugar, syrup and spices on the hob before stirring in butter and then all the flour. The dough ended up quite dry (I'm wondering about leaving out a handful of flour next time) and the recipe says to leave it to cool in the fridge for two hours, so I went off and read the most emotional part of What Katy Did and went back to the dough later.

I was surprised at how hard the dough was, but after it has softened a little I got on with rolling it out. The recipe says to roll it 'very thin'. Now, how am I supposed to know what that is? I rolled it as thin as seemed sensible and got on with cutting out the heart shapes. My cutter is pitifully blunt but I got there in the end, and one tray went into the hot oven to bake while I rolled and cut some more. I have to say I didn't fully embrace the Pippi-esque way of rolling out biscuit dough - on the kitchen floor. She has a mad flurry of biscuit making and whizzes off about 500 biscuits in no time at all, rolling them out on her kitchen floor as there's more room down there. However, our kitchen floor is mostly filled with a carpet rug and the bits of tile that aren't covered are uneven, pitted and grouted, and even when regularly cleaned, prone to just a few cat hairs. We haven't got a lot of work space in our kitchen either, having an enormous hearth oven, two big windows, stairs, and three doors coming off the room, leaving not many free walls to attach low cupboards to. So it was a bit slow, the rolling and cutting but I got there in the end and the biscuits are very quick to bake - about 6-8 minutes. I should probably have taken them out a bit earlier than I did, as the edges did brown a bit and I think they are meant to be pale all over. However, they cooled and quickly hardened to a satisfyingly crunchy bite, not too brittle or hard, and they definitely snap when you break them. I think next time, I would try to bake them a little less and maybe a fraction thinner, but it's all a bit of a trial and error.

Oh, the FLAVOUR! I almost forgot! They are DELICIOUS! I've made plenty of batches of ginger biscuits and ginger nuts before which simply have loads of ginger in. But these are something special. They are so subtle and tasty. No one spice rules, they all blend to make a wonderful, warming, soft spiciness that, once you have munched you will need to pick up another, and another.

I took them all into work the next morning, and my lovely colleagues helped me to devour them.

The only other change I'd make is that I might not bother fridging the dough. It never fully softened and was a bit tricky to roll out, breaking up at the edges a lot. I had two other balls of dough that I left in the fridge overnight (the recipe says to divide the dough into 3, as it's too much to roll out in one go.) When I got the dough out the next day, even hours later, it was solid as a rock, so I carved slices off with a knife and laid these thin slabs on the baking sheet rather than throw it all away. They baked fine, but it was rather disappointing not to be able to work with the dough properly.

I know I'll be making these again though, because they are easy, no faff, and completely yummy. I don't know how true they are to a Swedish ginger biscuit, but they are good and with the lovely mix of ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom, you can believe they are intrinsically Swedish.

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