Revised: 9th December 2021
The holiday season is upon us. We all have different traditions, and in our family baking loads of gingerbread spiced with cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and allspice (amongst others) is a big part of our celebrations. I’d like to say these are Finnish gingerbread but I do think similar ones are found in rest of the Nordic countries as well.
This recipe is my mum’s trusty one to make the most lovely, crunchy and delightfully spicy gingerbread.
The recipe makes a generous amount of gingerbread (6 trays at least), so if you want to half it please do. I do have to say they are so good and the gluten-eaters will want to have them as well, that a generous amount might be needed. The dough needs to rest a minimum of 3 hours so with the dough making and baking it is at least a 5-6h job, perfect for weekends or make the dough a day before.
Making the Gingerbread dough
|300g (300ml)||caster sugar|
|300g (200ml)||dark sugar syrup|
|(you can use golden syrup for paler biscuits or use 1/2 treacle or molasses for darker colour)|
|1-2g (1-2tsp)||ground cloves (if grinding your own, use less)|
|5g (2 tsp)||ground cinnamon|
|5g (2 tsp)||ground ginger|
|4-5g (2tsp)||ground cardamom (you can take the seeds from 10-15 pods and grind with a mortar and pestle)|
|3g (1 tsp)||ground allspice|
|30g (4 tsp)||bicarbonate of soda|
|appr. 800g**||gluten-free plain flour mix (Doves farm) and some extra for forming the gingerbread|
|*since commercial flour mixes differ from each other, you might find the dough needs more to make it firm enough to bake. It’s a good idea to have at least 25% more of the flour mix at hand, also the fat you use can affect the baking properties so have some flour on reserve for the forming of the gingerbread|
- In a small saucepan, heat up the syrup and spices and bring to boil. Set aside to cool down until luke warm (you don’t want it to cook the egg or melt the butter when adding it to the dough). Start making the rest of the dough only when the syrup is cool enough to touch. Be careful with the syrup as it is really hot when you take it off the hob.
- In a bowl using preferably an electric whisk, whisk the sugar and butter into an airy mix (should turn quite pale in colour).
- Combine the gf flour mix and the bicarbonate of soda.
- Using a spoon or spatula, fold the flour in the butter and sugar mixture (do not use the electric whisk).
- Add the eggs and the syrup and stir gently so that you get an uniform dough. The dough should be at least semi-firm at this point, if it feel very soft, add more gf flour.
- Cover with cling film or lid and put the dough in the fridge to firm up at least for 3hours and preferably over night.
Forming and baking the gingerbread
- When you make the gingerbread, take a portion of the dough and roll it out 3-5mm thick on a surface that you have dusted generously with gf flour, put some flour also on top and dust the rolling pin with flour as well. Alternatively, use two sheets of baking parchment and roll the dough between them, still dusting bottom and top with gf flour.
- If you find the dough too soft at this point, add gf flour – the dough should be firm enough so you can cut shapes and lift them off to a baking tray using a spatula.
- Choose a cookie cutter of your liking, dip it in gf flour and cut out the gingerbread. Lift the gingerbread using a thin spatula on to a baking tray lined with non-stick baking parchment. You can collect the off-cuts and combine them with the rest of the dough before you take a new chunk to work with.
- Bake in a 200C/180C fan assisted (390F/365F gas mark 5) oven for 5-8min depending on the size and shape of the gingerbread. If the shapes have a lot of pointy edges you might want to drop the oven temp for 15 degrees and bake a little longer to avoid the edges burning.
- Form the rest of the dough in chunks. You can put the dough in the fridge to cool down and firm up in between trays if it starts to get tricky to work with.
The recipe is great as it is, but different dietary requirements or preferences might cause you to want to change the recipe a bit. Here’s some guidance to that.
Adjusting the spicing
I suspect ginger doesn’t suit me, so as much as I love it, I substituted it with bitter orange peel powder, which is a spice widely used in Finnish/Nordic/Scandinavian Christmas bakes. You might find this in ethnic grocery shops or online. You can also use a few tablespoons of the zest of an organic orange (wash carefully), which will give a more mellow citrus flavour. If there’s a spice you are not keen on or find hard to source, feel free to leave it out. I am sure you still get a tasty end result.
Changing the flour mix
I need to avoid using corn and rice due to intolerance, I have made the gingerbread with 1/4 of the weight of flour being tapioca starch and the other parts being millet, buckwheat and quinoa in equal parts. I found this worked well, one might need to start with 700g and see if one needs more.
Making dairy-free gingerbread
If you want to bake the gingerbread dairy free, you can use margarine instead of butter, but as they don’t typically set hard, you might find you need to add a bit more flour to firm up the dough.
Decorating the gingerbread
If you want to decorate the gingerbread, using icing made from water and icing sugar is easy to do. Just take a couple of cups of icing sugar and add water a couple of teaspoons at a time and mix until you get a consistency that’s stiff enough to pipe. Or you can make royal icing by separating the white of an egg and whisk it lightly, then add icing sugar until again you have a suitable consistency to pipe. Royal icing sets quicker and harder than the water one.
You can also use shop bought icing tubes, just double-check they are gluten-free. Do always check as I have found that some brands might do some gluten-free and other colours would have gluten in. If you want to use sprinkles, please note that some of the sprinkles in supermarkets at least here in the UK contain wheat or are a may contain. The amount of gluten-free options is luckily increasing and you can find GF sprinkles online as well.
So here you have the recipe to make great Nordic (or Finnish) style gingerbread that’s quintessential to my Christmas. However you spend your holidays, if you are making these, can you post on social media and tag me please! @gf_lifetweaks on Instagram and @gflifetweaks on Facebook. I would love to see what you have made!
Should you want to learn to make your own gluten-free bread, you can find details of my Simple and Tasty Gluten-Free Bread here!