December 23, 2013

Lebkuchen


This holiday season I was drawn to the old recipes, the ancient -been around forever- kind of cookies.  I made Spritz Cookies and of course Gingerbread Cookies and then topped off the holiday baking with these German spice cookies which date back as far as the 1400's.  These cookies are surprisingly well documented.  They were the creation of a group of monks who baked them on top of communion wafers to keep them from sticking to the pan.  To make the truly authentic version you can bake these on top of Oblaten Baking Wafers available from many on-line sources.  I tried to find them in our local grocery store in the International aisle, but no luck.  Baked on parchment paper these cookies do just fine!


The cookies are topped with a simple sugar glaze or a very interesting chocolate glaze.  I used a little of each to see which we like best.  My taste testers will be here for Christmas Eve dinner so I'll let you know!


The glaze is painted on using a pastry brush, but I don't have one so I used a silicone BBQ brush and it worked great.  


The glaze sets nicely in just a few hours and the cookies are ready to gift or serve.


Made with toasted hazelnuts, almonds, warm spices,citrus and a touch of cocoa, these are an unusually interesting cookie with the flavor improving after a few days.  I don't know if they will last that long!


It is very interesting the way they have an old world taste where the spices, nuts and citrus take center stage instead of sugar and chocolate.  My husband asked me what an old world taste - tastes like.  My answer, they are unlike anything I've ever tried and are surprisingly addictive.   It's so easy to see why these cookies have been made year after year and shared around the world.

Lebkuchen
6 ounces unblanched hazelnuts, toasted and cooled
6 ounces unblanched almonds, toasted and cooled
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons grated orange zest (about 3 oranges)
2 tablespoons grated lemons zest (about 2 lemons)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Glaze: (this makes enough to glaze half the cookies.  Double for entire batch)
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1/8 cup plus 1 teaspoon milk 

Chocolate Glaze:  (this makes enough to glaze half the cookies.  Double for entire batch)
1/8 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the toasted nuts, granulated sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.  Process until it resembles a fine meal.  Add the orange and lemon zest and continue to process until well combined.  

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, and salt.  Set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the butter and brown sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Scrape sides of bowl as needed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and beat until blended.  Add the flour and cocoa mixture and blend on low until incorporated.  Add the spices and nut mixture and blend another minute until blended.  Using a 2-tablespoon size ice cream soup, place mounds of dough on the parchment line baking sheets, making sure they are about 1 1/2 inches apart.  I was able to put 7 or 8 on each sheet.  

Bake the cookies until the edges are firm and the middle just starts to crack, about 18 minutes.  Halfway through the baking time, rotate the pans and switch them around.  Allow the cookies to remain on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes to cool, then transfer to a cooling rack.  Either allow the pans to cool before placing the remaining dough on the cookie sheet, or remove the parchment paper to the counter top, portion out the remaining dough, then carefully slide the raw cookies onto the baking sheets.  If the dough sits on a warm pan they will spread and become thin.  It is best to bake any cookie on a cooled sheet or parchment.  

Cool completely before glazing.

Glaze:  combine the confectioners' sugar and milk.  Brush on the cooled cookies, top with a sliced almond if desired, and brush on a little more glaze on top of the almonds.  Allow to set at room temperature until the glaze is set.

Chocolate Glaze:  Combine the water, sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan.  Heat on high stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved.  Pour the hot sugar mixture over the chocolate chips and let it sit for 1 minute.  Stir until the chocolate is dissolved.  Brush on the cooled cookies.

(Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated.  Chocolate glaze adapted from Saveur)


Each year our daughter Allie makes cupcakes for her work Christmas party.  We made wreaths this year and had such a fun time working together in the kitchen, well at least I had a great time!


I'm getting into Instagram these days so here's one I tweaked with one of their great effects.  

That about does it for me until after Christmas.  There are several other recipes I wish I had time to blog but there are a few more presents to wrap and a family dinner on Christmas Eve to prepare!  I hope you are enjoying this blessed season and may your holidays be filled with special moments.  I am truly thankful you took the time to stop and visit today - thanks so much!  

Blessings to you and your family, 

Tricia

13 comments:

  1. These are gorgeous. They honestly sum up Christmas in a cookie. Beautiful!

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  2. Those Lebkuchen are perfect, Tricia. And I love those Christmas cupcakes that you made with your daughter. So festive!

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  3. I never heard of Lebkuchen cookies until I saw a box at Trader Joe's and bought them to try them, and I have to tell you they were really delicious! Thanks for the recipe! And, the cupcakes are so adorable too! Enjoy the Holidays!!

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  4. I would buy these at Christmas time when we lived in Germany; I adore the flavors of these cookies! I'm thinking that I would be partial to the chocolate glaze, though I'd be perfectly content with either! Merry Christmas to you and your family Tricia.

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  5. These cookies turn out beautifully, Tricia! What a pretty present they make in those boxes! Unfortunately, I can't bake or eat them (nut allergies) but I enjoyed learning about them. :) I do have some ideas for where I might use that chocolate glaze. I will let you know if it works. :) I hope you and your family have a joyous Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year!

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  6. My German aunt makes lebkuchen, but her recipe is hard to translate. If this is adapted from Cook's Illustrated, then I know this is a winner. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. It's too late to make for tomorrow night, but there's always next year! (Heck, why not make them in July?)

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  7. It all looks very good Tricia - merry Christmas

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  8. Terrific cookies, beautiful presentation!
    Merry Christmas to you, Tricia !

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  9. I love lebkuchen. I usually buy loads from a German grocery store, but I should really make some myself. At least when I've eaten up this year's supply ;)

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  10. You make everything so very, very beautiful, Tricia! Hope your Christmas was Merry and wishing you and yours all the very best 2014 has to offer!! blessings and hugs ~ tanna

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  11. Tricia, these are so old world! Truly, they look and sound so good. I think of an old world taste as something not so processed and full of spices-just like these. Great description and can't wait to try them! Love those cupcakes, too! I miss decorating with my daughter!

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  12. So darn talented you are! Even down to the last details :)

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