Is there anything more inviting and exciting than the smell of fresh, warm gingerbread cookies? –Maybe there is: the smell of fresh, warm gingerbread cookies with Authentic Finnish Gingerbread Spice Mix! Perhaps this year, you’ll try a slightly different twist of the same old gingerbread cookies? Read on to find out the secret ingredient that makes this warm spice mix particularly Nordic!
What makes this Gingerbread Spice Mix Authentic and Finnish?
Like in many other countries worldwide, gingerbread cookies (or comparable spicy creations) are a must-have Christmas indulgence also here in Finland. In my opinion, it’s the taste and especially the scent of these festive treats that make the ultimate Christmas feeling.
But what makes this gingerbread spice mix especially Finnish? Well, not only because I’m a Finn and I have made it, but it calls for the most commonly used seasonings in the Finnish gingerbread cookies, piparkakut.
Sure, there is the common ginger and cinnamon involved in this spice mix, but there is a spice that is not very commonly used in the world’s repertoire of gingerbread spice mixes.
But what is the secret spice that makes this seasoning Nordic and especially Finnish? It’s bitter orange (Citrus × aurantium for you, botanical freaks). Yes, authentic Nordic gingerbread spice mix uses bitter orange peel that we Finns call pomeranssi. To my knowledge, bitter orange, especially the peel, is not that commonly used seasoning in the world. Well, marmalade made from the bitter orange fruit is common, but the peel used as a spice is not that common, as well as I know.
Funnily enough, last week, as I was visiting Greece, I saw that bitter oranges are growing there everywhere. Also now, in the middle of the winter, they are plump and ripe. Look, how gorgeous they are:
So, to make this spice mix authentic Finnish, you need dried, finely-ground bitter orange peel. For example, Amazon carries it, but just in case you don’t find bitter orange peel, don’t despair. I will give some hints at the end of this blog post on how to keep this recipe still authentic without the bitter orange peel.
Anyway, in my opinion, the best thing is with this recipe is that the use of this spice mix is not restricted to gingerbread cookies — you can use it in cakes or even in pies, in any treat to which you want to add some cozy wintertime feeling.
Not only for baked goods, but you can also jazz up your holiday time chocolate or even ice cream with this gingerbread spice mix! Or, how about holiday-spiced halva?
And think of a chocolate bark as a gift: melt extra dark chocolate, add a generous pinch of this gingerbread spice mix, and a handful of almonds, nuts, or seeds. Pour into molds or on a piece of parchment paper and let set. Remove from the mold or from the parchment paper and break into pieces. Wrap nicely. What a wonderful holiday gift!
Talking about gifts, a beautiful jar of this spice also makes an excellent gift. Feel free to multiply the ingredients to make a huge batch of the spice mix for your gifts.
By the way, this recipe uses Ceylon cinnamon rather than cassia cinnamon (Chinese cinnamon) that especially the commercial Finnish gingerbread spice mixes contain (thank the food industry and their endeavor for making everything with cheap and inferior ingredients).
There are two reasons I want to use Ceylon cinnamon rather than cassia cinnamon: first — and most importantly — Ceylon cinnamon is not toxic to the liver, unlike cassia cinnamon. Moreover, Ceylon cinnamon tastes gentle and aromatic compared to more aggressive cassia cinnamon. That’s also why you need to use more Ceylon cinnamon than cassia cinnamon.
How to make the Finnish Gingerbread Spice Mix
As you might expect, preparing this spice mix is super-easy: just mix all 4 ingredients together, and that’s it!
So, let’s take a look at what the ingredients actually are and how much you need them. As always, you can find the complete recipe in the recipe box further below.
Combine all spices in a small bowl. First, add 1 tablespoon Ceylon cinnamon…
…1 teaspoon ground ginger…
…1 teaspoon ground cloves…
…and 1/2 teaspoon ground bitter orange peel.
Ta-dah! Ready to use…
…for example, in these keto gingerbread cookies.
How I came up with this Gingerbread Spice Mix recipe
You might remember from my last week’s post that I had an idea for an Authentic Finnish Gingerbread Spice Mix. However, as I was visiting Greece, I chose a more authentic Greek recipe for marinated olives than an authentic Finnish recipe.
Now, I’m back in Finland, so an authentic Finnish holiday recipe sounded like an idea worth developing.
As a Finn who has consumed about a thousand pounds of gingerbread cookies throughout her life, I believe I do have quite a good picture in my mind and smell in my nose how the authentic Finnish gingerbread spice should appear.
However, to get really into tradition, I grabbed some old Finnish cookbooks from my shelf and checked their recipes for gingerbread cookies and gingerbread spices.
Surprisingly many recipes used cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in equal ratios. However, there was some variation in the amount of bitter orange peel. Some used double the amount, some just half. A few recipes included cardamom as well.
After some thinking, I was ready to conduct my first experiment to find the ultimate combination of – at least four – spices. I decided to use cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and bitter orange peel. Maybe I’ll try one experiment with cardamom as well. It’s also pretty authentic in a Finnish gingerbread spice mix anyway.
For my first experiment, I used 1 teaspoon ground Ceylon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground bitter orange, and 1 teaspoon ground cardamom. Actually, it wasn’t my purpose to add cardamom, but somehow my hand just grabbed a teaspoonful of cardamom from the bag and threw it in.
Well, despite cardamom, the flavor was good. But for me, it didn’t smell authentic. First of all, I noticed that I don’t want to have cardamom in my authentic Finnish gingerbread spice mix. The cardamom clearly reduced the authenticity.
Secondly, since I used Ceylon cinnamon, I needed to use more as the smell and taste are milder than those of cassia cinnamon.
However, I wanted to try out how the spice mix turns out if I use equal ratios of each seasoning – without cardamom – so Ceylon cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and bitter orange.
The smell was good, so was the taste. But it wasn’t what I was looking for. The amount of cinnamon was indeed too little, so now I was completely convinced that I had to at least double the amount, maybe even triple. Moreover, there was clearly too much bitter orange. The spice mix smelled too fruity to me. I wasn’t sure about the amount of cloves, either, maybe I needed to reduce that as well?
I still did three more experiments with a triple amount of Ceylon cinnamon. For one, I reduced the amount of cloves; for another one, I reduced both the amount of cloves and the amount of bitter orange. For the last one, I used equal amounts of each spice except that triple amount of Ceylon cinnamon.
By the way, you can only imagine how many times I sneezed when sniffing all my spice mix experiments! Another note: to make things really authentic, all dishes I use in this post are Finnish design!
The three latest tests, III, IV, and V, tasted the most authentic. To see how they perform in baking, I baked mug cakes using these spice mixes. For each mug cake, I used 1 teaspoon gingerbread spice mix.
From these, I concluded that I liked most of the test number V that contained 1 tablespoon Ceylon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of other spices. However, I thought it was still a tad too fruity, so I wanted to make yet one spice mix experiment with less bitter orange.
And naturally, I also made a mug cake to see how the spice mix experiment VI performs in real life.
Oh yes! Now, I had reached my goal. This last experiment had it all: enough warm cinnamon flavor, a punch from ginger, the exotic flavor from cloves, and just enough fruitiness from the bitter orange. To me, this is the ultimate, authentic Finnish gingerbread spice mix!
Here’s the recipe for you to enjoy:
- 1 tablespoon ground Ceylon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground bitter orange peel
- Combine all ingredients in a cup.
- Mix until well combined.
- Use like regular gingerbread spice mix (usually 1-3 teaspoons).
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Tips for variation
As this recipe is more or less authentic, there is not much to vary — if you still want to keep it authentic, that is. However, you can double the amount of bitter orange peel if you want a tad fruitier flavor. Also, you can add 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom. Yes, I would still consider the recipe quite authentic if you add cardamom, as many Finnish gingerbread spice recipes do contain cardamom. My first experiment with the accidental cardamom was good, but there was just too much of it.
In case you cannot find bitter orange peel, you can use Valencia orange peel that is better available, for example, in the US. In that case, I recommend using 1 teaspoon. For the bitter kick that the Valencia orange lacks, you can use a pinch of black pepper or allspice. Indeed, I’ve seen these two spices in some Finnish gingerbread recipes, especially in very old ones, dating back as far as the beginning of the 20th century.
In case you replace the Ceylon cinnamon with cassia cinnamon, use just 1 teaspoon cassia cinnamon as the flavor is stronger.
As I told, I’m back from sunny and warm Greece. Here in Finland, the weather is not very cold, though, just a bit freezing.
I’ve done more Ketokamu experiments. For example, I made meat soup and a new version of our berry white chocolate.
During my stay in Greece, I was interviewed by the school where I will give my keto course next month. Here’s a link to the article (in Finnish, though).
On Friday, we had our unofficial Ketokamu Christmas party, including a meeting, wrapping of the year, and some activities (like shooting each other with laser guns…).
We had our meeting in Bistro Naapuri – our regular gathering place and one of the few restaurants that offer keto food in the center of Tampere.
The Good Guys Kombucha had prepared new batches of keto kombucha for us to enjoy. Here, we are comparing the old and new kombucha batches.
For lunch, we enjoyed delicious keto burgers in Bistro Naapuri – with more keto kombucha.
In the evening, we gathered at my home. We tasted my latest berry chocolate experiment. I was surprised by the positive feedback: the others were raving about the chocolate. I was a bit hesitant with the chocolate, but the others convinced me that I’m on the right track with the development.
Anyway, the recipe is almost ready. I got some ideas, though, on how to develop it even further. Currently, I have my melanger running for an improved recipe, the result of which I will see tomorrow.
And, after having keto chocolate as an appetizer, we had some meat soup for dinner. I had marinated and dried the meat for that. Actually, if you have my Finnish book “Järkevä ketoruokavalio,” you’ll find a recipe for the beef jerky on page 172.
For the soup, I cooked the jerky for a couple of hours and then added vegetables. The taste was unbelievably aromatic, and the meat was juicy, flaky, and tender. I hope that we’ll get a commercial version of this soup to the market next year.