Paprenjak is a Croatian biscuit that is consumed as a traditional Christmas special all over the country. With an unusual mix of black pepper and honey, this biscuit is flavored by an overpowering taste of pepper, and therefore, it is also called as ‘peppery biscuit’.
Although the popularity of Papernjack has spread throughout Europe, it is particularly liked by Germans and Scandinavians. Even the original Croatian recipe for the biscuits has also been modified according to the regional taste.
This Croatian biscuit takes up various shapes, such as, those of trees, stars, gingerbread, and many shapes are embossed on the biscuits by a wooden press.
Origin of Papernjack
Though the origin of the biscuit is still mystifying, it is believed to have existed during the period of Renaissance in 16th century. In Croatia, it was a tradition to make Papernjack round the year, but slowly, the tradition remained for only special occasions, especially Christmas. On Christmas, Croatian ladies make biscuit dough and children are involved to give shapes to the dough. It’s a family activity in present times that is more of a fun game for children.
As Germans, Swedes and Scandinavians are fond of these cookies, it is believed that a Croatian family shifted to Sweden with the Grandmother and her classic Papernjack recipe that was immensely liked by the local people.
Ingredients and Preparation Overview of Croatian Pepper Biscuits
Papernjack is a secret family recipe, but some of its known ingredients are honey, black pepper, eggs, flour, nuts and spices. Many other ingredients are also included to flavor the cookies, but some of them are closely guarded by the Croatian families, for making traditional and unique recipes.
Among the nuts; walnuts and hazelnuts are preferably used in the biscuit. Clove, nutmeg and cinnamon are particularly used with black pepper to spice up the cookie. Butter is also generously used to make soft and smooth cookie dough.
The tradition of making elastic dough is strictly followed by the bakers in order to retain the true Croatian texture and flavor. Initially, big earthen ovens were used to bake papernjack, but now electric ovens can be used to make these biscuits.
Variations of Papernjack Recipe
- Pepparkakor – Though it’s a peppery cookie, the orange flavor is used additionally to enhance the taste of the cookie. It’s a Swedish recipe reminiscent to Papernjack.
- Pfeffernüsse – Most commonly served in German and Dutch cuisines, this aniseed flavored cookies are quite similar to Croatian peppery cookies.
- Piparkökur – It is also a pepper based cookie quite common in Iceland. It is especially flavored with paprika and cardamom.
In a popular classic fairy tale, Papernjack is the cookie that lured‘Hansel and Gretel’ to walk into the house of witch.