Friday, December 9, 2016

Yet Another Baltic Christmas - Day 9 and a southern piparkūka

I’ve always thought of piparkūku baking as very much a social endeavor. This time of year is full of community baking events, fundraisers for churches and schools (who sell the piparkūkas at the annual Christmas bazaaar), get-togethers for youth organizations, or just friends getting together to enjoy one another’s company while rolling, cutting and decorating the fragile cookies. It’s the thought of the comraderie in the kitchen, and of the joy in sharing this tradition with others that prompts my attempts to bring the Latvians in our area together for a piparkūku cepšana. And although we skip a year or two here and there, there are the successful years like this one that make me want to go ahead and schedule one for next year!

photo credit Inga Lucans

13 children, 4 adults, 3.5 pounds of dough. Possibly 4 pounds of sprinkles.

Photo credit Sarmīte

We used a pasta rolling attachment on the KitchenAid mixer; can you imagine trying to roll out dough for thirteen children? This is the pasta roller attachment I own – it’s a little bit of an investment, but I’ve used it for several years now and it’s great for getting that consistent thickness that bakes evenly.

The piparkūku mīklas recipe is the same one that appeared on this blog during the first year of the series, A Baltic Christmas Day 5 - Piparkūkas! It is also the same one that is used by the KBLS Latvian School in Chicago to bake their 60 pounds of cookies to sell at the school’s Christmas bazaar. Yep, 60! While I’m here wondering how I’m going to bake all three pounds, the churches there reportedly bake 300!!

As I write this the smell of our afternoon spent baking still lingers, but the cookie tin on the kitchen counter is emptier by half. I still have 2 pounds of dough left, and although we’ll spend another day or two baking with the boys, I’ll probably end up finishing the last pound or so by myself one evening after they’ve gone to bed… why let the boys have all the fun!

Which brings me back to my original thought about how piparkūku baking is very much a social endeavor; maybe this isn’t entirely true. My friend asked me if I would like her to prepare another couple of pans’ worth of piparkūkas for me in return for the enjoyable afternoon, and I replied no thanks, as although it’s work, it’s the kind of work I enjoy. Because as much as I enjoy the company while rolling, pressing and baking, I’m also looking forward to some solitary time pressing out the little piparkūku hearts and hedgehogs; some quiet reflection on the memories brought on by the smell of piparkūkas in the oven, the feel of the dough as I transfer my cookies to the pan, the taste of that cookie that was just a little too long in the oven…

Which one of these didn't make it to the tin? Hint: trick question!

Thank you to all who joined us for an afternoon of piparkūku baking, and a special thanks to Sarmīte for capturing all those special moments and sharing her photos! As you can see from the past several days on 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas, between the medus torte and the piparkūkas we’re well on our way into the holiday goodies. Tomorrow on Day 10 it’s a journey back to a Latvian childhood with “Tell me a Story!” I hope you’ll join us!


  1. Brings back memories of laughing with friends during piparkūku cepšanas sessions in Latvian school...laughing with siblings around the table at home...and of course, memories of coming home to a house smelling like Ziemassvētki, with mamma in the kitchen stirring her huge vats of dough with one of her dozens of wooden spoons...

    1. Right? And every year we just keep adding memories on...


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