Tuesday, December 4, 2012

German Lebkuchen : Holiday Cookies - DBC November, 2012

Lebkuchen, reminds me of our trip to Germany last year in December. We took a cruise along the Rhine river and I think it was the most romantic and scenic cruise, we have ever taken. Breathtaking medieval castles, fortresses and palaces ! Among all the stories of the fortresses and castles, what stayed on my mind was the story of a woman named Lorelei date back several centuries. Her statue is on top of a hill, in the midst of the Rhine river. There are many stories legends behind this statue. According to one, She would lure sailors by her beauty and voice, causing ship wrecks. Another legend states that her lover was unfaithful to her, so she threw herself in the water to meet her end. Her song of lament caused many a ship wrecks. Whatever the legend, the mythical charm of Lorelei and the breath taking scenery of the Rhine river, makes the whole trip feel like a dream. 

 After the cruise, our next stop was the  local Christmas market. I was like a kid in a candy store, the festivity, people, music, food and oh yes the mulled wine ( not exactly a beverage for a kid :)). I was hooked - mulled wine and some stollen and lebkuchen - too much excitement  for one day ! Well I really cannot recreate the mood at the Christmas markets but the lebkuchen did bring back sweet memories of a trip that I will cherish for a long long time. Thanks Peta from Peta Eats for hosting the DBC - Daring Baker's challenge for the holiday season. 

The Lebkuchen has  a bit of history under its belt.  The history of the Lebkuchen begins with the Honigkuchen (Honey Cake). The Egyptians, (dated around1500 BC) baked these cakes to be placed in the graves of kings as the egyptians believed that honey was a gift for the Gods and they regarded their kings as Gods.. The lebkuchen of today finds its origin in Belgium. The cookies were introduced to the city of Ulm in 1296. Enough  nerd facts for one post... any more and you guys will un-follow me :))) Isn't it exciting to bake something that was also baked centuries ago - so much would have changed in the recipe and the treatment of the ingredients. Am sure it would have tasted better then, pure unrefined and unprocessed ingredients.

The cookies had a wonderful flavor, almost like ginger bread.  However  I would have liked it if it were a bit softer, after 2 days the cookies did seem a bit hard. So I think the next time I bake it I am going to reduce the baking time - I baked the first batch perfectly, but  then I thought the cookies very too soft, so believe it or not, I actually baked them again for 5 more min. The warm cookies seemed perfect, but it did harden in a few days. Also I would not make the cookies as thin as I did, a bit chunkier.  I made about 35 cookies, I think it should be 24 - that would make sure the cookies have perfect balance of softness and crunchiness.The recipe calls for icing - I did not ice the cookies as I thought it would make it too sweet.

85ml honey
115g brown sugar
30g butter
225g plain flour, sifted

spice mix
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves - really adds the spicy punch

It is scientifically proven that spices help you boost your immune system, and they do tend to add a dramatic kick to desserts - don't be shy....!!

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 egg, beaten
50g ground almonds
Makes 24 biscuits.
Recipe from - The Pink Whisk 
In a large pan place the honey, sugar and butter.  Make sure it is large enough, so you don't have trouble mixing the other ingredients.  Heat over a gentle flame until the butter and sugar have melted.  Remove from  heat.
Sift together the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda. Beat the egg in a small dish. Add one half of the flour mixture and half of the egg to the pan and mix well.
Repeat for the remaining flour and eggs, add the almond flour 
Note : the almond flour can be a bit chunky and  need not be extra fine. I just ground some almond in the blender. 
Chill overnight in the fridge, in fact you can leave this dough to develop it’s flavours in the fridge for up to three days.The following day remove the dough from the fridge and roll out between two sheets of greaseproof paper to approx 5-8mm thick.
Cut any shape you want with a cookie cutter, preheat oven to 320F. Bake for about 7- 9 min. 
I baked it for 14 min :(
Sit back relax, enjoy the cookie with some hot coffee and soothing music. It's nice to be busy, but sometimes you must find some time for yourself and sit back and just let the world go by ! 

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