Thursday, October 8, 2009
One lovely September long weekend at my friend Claire's mom's place on the island, Claire & I did some recipe testing for an upcoming issue of Western Living dedicated to retro cookies. All of the recipes are from the 1950s and 60s, so everyone on staff chipped in to test a few out.
When I saw Lebkuchen on the list, I jumped for joy. Yes! Delicious spicy German Christmas cookies that my friend Christina used to make for me when we didn't live 6,000 miles away from each other. I love, love, love them. Lebkuchen=cake of life. Indeed.
This recipe is a little white bread compared to the authentic recipe--no chopped fruit or ground nuts—so it's pretty straightforward to make. I thought it needed an extra kick, so I added chopped ginger. This stuff from Capers is particularly tasty.
After a few taste tests, Claire thought they could use a little more salt, so I added Kosher salt on the second go-around - I love Kosher salt in cookies for the little hit of salt you get with the sweet. We upped some of the spice factor too with cloves and more cinnamon, and added an egg to make them a little more cake-like--and even German Christina thought they were winners. Here's the recipe - and you'll find the rest of the retro ones in November's Western Living!
Lebkuchen (From Western Homes & Living, December 1964)
3/4 cup butter or margarine
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup liquid honey
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 cup chopped candied ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cold strong coffee
1 egg (optional)
Split blanched almonds
1 1/2 cups sifted icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp lemon juice
Using a double boiler, combine butter or margarine, brown sugar and honey, stirring occasionally until butter is melted and sugar dissolved. Pour into a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salts, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Using a hand blender, combine dry ingredients with the cooled honey mixture, alternating with the buttermilk and coffee. Beat in egg (optional). Tightly cover dough and chill several hours.
Divide chilled dough in half and roll out each portion to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into rounds with 2 1/2-inch floured cookie cutter. Arrange on greased cookie sheets and decorate each cookie with split blanched almonds. Bake at 350˚F for 15–18 minutes.
Combine icing sugar, vanilla and sufficient lemon juice to make a thin icing glaze. Immediately after removing cookies the oven, brush them with the glaze. Cool completely. Store in a tightly closed container for no more than a few days to keep soft. Makes 4 dozen.