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Pepperkakehus

Juleverksted
Pepperkakehus. Foto: Andreas Solberg
The Norwegian word for ginger bread is "peppekake", which literally means "pepper cake". I don't know why we chose to name it after a different spice than the English, as all the recipes I've looked at also includes ginger ("ingefær", in Norwegian), and some don't even have pepper, but every Norwegian child is taught to associate pepperkake with pepper from a very early age, because of a song. "Pepperkakebakesangen" (literally "The pepper cake baking song"), is a song from a Norwegian children's book, and it contains a recipe for pepperkake:

Når en pepperkakebaker
Baker pepperbakekaker
Tar han først en stekegryte
Og et kilo margarin

Oppi gryta smelter smøret
Og det neste han må gjøre
Er å røre sammen smøret
Og et kilo med farin

Og mens smør og sukker skummer
Tar man åtte eggeplommer
Som man rører rundt i gryta
Med en kilo hvetemjøl

Og til slutt i gryta slepper
Han en liten teskje pepper
Og så rører han omkring
og tømmer deigen på ei fjøl.


English, translation by me:

When a pepper cake baker
Bakes pepper cakes
He starts with a frying pan
And a kilo of margarine

In the pan the butter melts
And the next thing he must do
Is to mix the butter
And a kilo of sugar

And while butter and sugar foams
One takes eight egg yolks
Which one stirs around in the pan
With a kilo of flour

And at the end into the pan he drops
A tea spoon of pepper
And then he stirs it around
And pours the dough onto a cutting board


The point of the story is that the bake teaches his apprentice this song, and tells him it's easy to make pepperkaker as long as you have a good pepperkakebakesang. The apprentice then make as slight error, using a kilo of pepper and a tea spoon of suger, instead of the other way around, and much fun ensues. By the way, this isn't an actual recipe for pepperkake, at least not a very good one. Aftenposten tested this last year, (both versions) and the result wasn't very good.

However, the topic for today isn't pepperkake as such, but "pepperkakehus", or ginger bread house. It is quite traditional in Norway to make a pepperkakehus before Christmas. It is constructed out of large, flat pieces of pepperkake, glued together with melted sugar, and decorated with icing, candy, and sometimes cotton wool to simulate snow. For those who interested Sintef Byggforsk (a research institute that tests building materials, and makes recommendations on best practice when constructing buildings) has a very thorough recipe, though unfortunately only in Norwegian.

After Christmas, it is traditional to smash the pepperkakehus to pieces and eat it. I'm not sure if tradition dictates that this should happen on a particular day, but in general I would say that it is best to make the peppekakehus as shortly before Christmas as possible, and then eat is soon after Christmas, as leaving it out to dry and gather dust does little to improve the taste.

-Tor Nordam
Karoline likes this

Comments

Camilla,  17.12.10 23:23

that the round candy on the top of the roof in the picture is an essential part of the decoration. Those are not smarties or m&ms, but a candy with the spectacularly Norwegian name "non-stop". The candy sticking up from the chimney are "seigmenn". They are a sort of sugar-coated jelly-people. The name ... I find I am stumpted for a good English translation for "seig". It refers to toughness in chewing, but "tough men" really does not carry the same connotation.

I would also like to register my shock at the julekalender showing up early today. Falling standards...