Following on from the spekulatius blog, we have been having fun trying to make German lebkuchen cookies.
There really is something Christmassy about the spices used in these Christmas biscuits – it’s that glorious mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and that extra richness from the cloves. Everything about Christmas smells seems to revolve around cloves whether it is the Christmas cake, lebkuchen cookies or making your pomander. And cloves are such a tricky spice that can completely overpower many spice blends, but seem to conjur up the right flavour for this festive period.
After a few goes at this recipe, this is where we have gotten to this year, but just like for the spekulaas I need to invest in some festive cookie shapes for next year. Also, I think it would work well with a light chocolate glaze as an alternative to the icing sugar glaze.
The ingredients bit:
250g / 9oz / 1¾ cups plus 1tbsp organic plain flour
85g / 3oz / ¾ cup ground almonds
2½tsp Steenbergs lebkuchen spice mix*
1tsp baking powder
½tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
175ml / ¾ cup clear honey (or golden syrup)
85g / 3oz softened unsalted butter
½tbsp lemon juice (this is lemon from ½ lemon)
½ lemon, finely grated zest (or combine to 1 lemon zested)
½ orange, finely grated zest
Some flaked or half blanched almonds (optional)
For the icing:
100g / 4oz / 1 cup icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
1 egg white, beaten
The recipe part:
Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
Warm the honey and butter in a pan over a low heat until the butter melts, then pour these into the flour mixture. Add the lemon juice and lemon & orange zest. Mix well with a hand held whisk until the dough is throughly combined. Cover and leave to cool overnight, or for at least 2 hours. to let the flavours meld together and work that festive magic.
Heat oven to 180C/ 350F / Gas Mark 4.
Roll the lebkuchen dough in your hands into around 25 balls, each 3cm wide (1 inch wide), then flatten each one slightly into a disc. Into the centre of the discs, place an almond flake.
Divide the lebkuchen mixture between 3 baking trays lined with baking parchment, or ideally with an edible baking paper, with a decent amount of room for them to expand into.
Bake for 13 – 15 mins, or until when touched lightly no imprint remains, then cool on a wire rack. While still warm, glaze the lebkuchen with the icing glaze, made as below.
While the cookies are baking, make your glazing icing: mix together the icing sugar and egg white to form a smooth, runny icing.
Brush the top of each biscuit with the glazing icing. Leave to dry out. I then glazed the top of the icing to give the lebkuchen a shinier lustre, but this is optional.
For the glaze, I took 100g (½ cup) caster sugar and 50ml (¼ cup) of water, melting these in a pan. Then, I boiled the mix to 90C/200F, when I added 15g (1 tablespoon) of icing sugar. This glaze was then bushed over the icing. Granted that it is extra fussy, but then it is Christmas.
You should ideally, allow these Christmas cookies to mellow. To do this, you should store the lebkuchen in an airtight container for a day or two to allow the flavours to mellow and the cookies to become softer. To improve the flavours, you could include a few pieces of sliced orange or lemon, but make sure that they are not touching the lebkuchen as this will make them soggy and change the fruit every day to stop them going stale or mouldy.
* To make your own lebkuchen spice mix: ¼tsp ground cloves, ½tsp allspice powder, ½tsp nutmeg powder, 1¼tsp cinnamon