Tag Archives: baking

Martha Stewart's Classic Crumb Cake

Sour Cream Coffee Cake: Part 2

When we last left off, I had completely messed up my measuring of nearly all the ingredients in Martha Stewart’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. (Which by the way, when I look back, is actually referred to as a “Classic Crumb Cake.”)

I also decided to use a much smaller bread loaf pan instead of the cake pan the recipe called for, which I do not own and was not willing to buy specifically for this recipe (although which will probably be needed for many a future cake recipe).

sour cream coffee cake going into the oven!
sour cream coffee cake going into the oven!

The coffee cake was in the oven, smelling delicious (although that could have also been the vanilla-scented candle I had going in the apartment). But would be it be okay – taste and texture-wise? TBD.

After 40 minutes of baking and 10 minutes of cooling. I took the plunge and sliced in.

Unfortunately the center of the cake sort of deflated and got a sunken look in the middle. However the overall taste of the cake was pretty good, if not subdued.

coffee cake
coffee cake – note the sunken mid-section

It was very butter accounted for by the butter in all the batter, the topping and the heavily greased pan.

Although overall it was pretty good, a few changes I would make along the way:

  1. If using the same loaf pan again, I would add less flour to the crumb topping and more cinnamon for a bolder flavor.
  2. The cake itself isn’t very sweet, which is fine, but I might actually sub brown sugar in for the white sugar, for a bit richer taste.

And so, as to the measuring goofs? Well, I’m sure the sinking center was caused by some mis-proportion of eggs/leavening/etc. Also, I may be overthinking it, but I feel like I’m getting a little metallic aftertaste…perhaps slightly too much baking soda or the brand which I’ve been using :/

slice of crumb cake
slice of crumb cake
sour cream coffee cake going into the oven!

Baking with Leftover Ingredients in 3 Parts: Part 1

Why does everything take me so much longer than it should?

This morning I realized that I had open containers of both heavy cream (from previously made caramel) and sour cream (from previously made cookies) that I would never use in everyday life (not liking the texture of sour cream or whipped cream and not using cream in my coffee), just sitting in the fridge, waiting to go bad.

So I turned to Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, which was the root cause of me having these ingredients in the first place, to see what recipes I could make to use them up.

I came across 1. Sour Cream Coffee Cake and 2. Mocha Roulade.

Each of these cake recipes has two parts: 1. Making the actual cake and 2. Making the topping/filling.

Since the Roulade filling needed to chill for a number of hours, I decided to start there, however that will have to come in Part 3, because today, I’m going to focus on the Sour Cream Coffee Cake.

I started with the brown sugar crumble topping for the Sour Cream Coffee Cake. As I typically do, I cut the recipe in half because 1. I never need to eat alllllll the desserts I make and 2. because I didn’t have the right size cake pan so decided to improvise with a standard, smaller, bread loaf pan (9×5) instead of 13×9. We’ll see how that goes.

What overall should take me 30 minutes somehow takes me at least an hour and a half, every time. I’m not sure why because I feel like I’m moving methodically and with purpose, but when I look up at the clock, so much time has passed. Maybe it’s the inordinate amount of hand-washing I do while baking? (Who wants raw egg on their hands?)

I made the crumble topping which basically amounts to flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and lots of butter to form buttery chunks (FYI this topping would also be great on an apple crisp).

coffee cake crumble topping
coffee cake brown sugar crumble topping

Then I made the cake batter. Or….and maybe this is what slowed me down….I had an incredible brain fart. What I understood to be a 1/4 cup measuring spoon was really a 1/2 cup measuring spoon. So while all my other ingredients (baking powder, baking soda, salt) were properly measured, I had inadvertently used WAY too much flour. Crap.

And since I had already mixed up the dry ingredients, I couldn’t think of a great way to salvage what I had mixed into the proper proportions.

So I started over.

I did, however, put the mis-measured mixture into tupperware to use for some future recipe.

After redoing the dry ingredients, I whipped up the butter and sugar. And darn it again. I used too much butter. Seriously, my brain is mush right now.

So I amped up my sugar, vanilla, eggs, and wouldn’t you know it, flour mixture, to compensate. Argh.

At this point, I’m fairly certain I have no idea what I’m doing or how this thing will even turn out because the ratios are probably out of whack, but oh well, pressing on because I’m not willing to start over again.

Adding the final touch – the leftover sour cream – a perfect amount left in the carton by the way – I spoon the batter into the loaf pan and top with about 1/2 of the topping because clearly even half the recipe was way too much. Making me nervous about the lack of surface area I have created on top of my cake….

sour cream coffee cake batter
sour cream coffee cake batter

It’s in the oven. 20 minutes left. Smells good. Wait for Part 2 to see if it’s gonna be okay. *grimace face emoji*

sour cream coffee cake going into the oven!
sour cream coffee cake going into the oven!
Martha Stewart coconut pecan caramel cookies

Me & Martha: Pecan Caramel Cookies

Really these are called Coconut Pecan Caramel Sandwich Cookies in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook (that I’m baking my way through), but since I couldn’t really taste the coconut and actually forgot I had put coconut in the cookie dough, I’m leaving that descriptor out as it could be misleading.

Yes, I followed the directions pretty thoroughly this time through, apart from cutting the recipe in half, yet again. (Either this book is written specifically for people who entertain or have large families, or they create recipes to fall into convenient quantities…like 1/4 cup of coconut…since an 1/8 cup of coconut hardly seems worth mentioning, right?)

Well anyway, I toasted up my unsweetened shredded coconut (actually the recipe calls for sweetened so maybe that’s why I can’t taste anything in the finished product) and pecans, pulverized them and mixed them into the shortbread dough.

pecan and coconut cookie dough
pecan and coconut cookie dough

After the multiple rounds of chilling, cookie cutting, and rechilling, my pecan shortbread hearts were on the wire rack cooling and I could get down the best part: the Caramel Filling!

final caramel sauce!
final caramel sauce!

I never use a candy thermometer, preferring instead to rely on my senses and sense of timing…which is probably why I don’t make a lot of candy products.

So I love that this recipe doesn’t instruct with a candy thermometer, but rather just color and texture cues.

In the end, making this caramel sauce was quite easy. Here’s what I did:

  1. Boil water and and about 4x more sugar until it starts turning a deep amber color, not stirring. [And this part from Martha I really like: continually “wash down” the sides of the pot with a wet pastry brush to avoid crystallization. It ensures that you are paying a lot of attention to not let the caramel burn or create a nasty mess on the sides of your pot.]
  2. Remove from heat and slowly pour in some heavy whipping cream.
  3. Then quickly stir in little chunks of butter until the whole thing becomes creamy and smooth and glossy.
  4. Really keep stirring to avoid clumping.
  5. Once it’s totally smooth, let it cool just a bit before drizzling over your cookies.

In the book, the cookies were adorable spring flower shaped with holes punched out of the middle so that the caramel sauce would peek through the top of the sandwich cookie.

In my reality, I only have a heart cookie cutter and, as I learned from the Linzer Heart Cookies, cutting a hole out of the middle of shortbread cookies is a time-consuming and pain-staking task that I was not up for doing again. So my cookies are straight up sandwich cookies, no cute hole. And frankly, I only made half of them into sandwiches…the other half I’m dunking into my bowl of caramel sauce. And that is perfect.

caramel sauce over pecan cookies
caramel sauce over pecan cookies

Even the cookies on their own are delish – they remind me of the Pecan Sandies that my mom used to love back when she could eat nuts.

Chai tea with a smidge of milk works really well with these. And now I’m going to buy ice cream so I have a reason to keep making this yummy caramel sauce!

final cheesecake thumbprint cookies - fully baked

Martha Stewart Cheesecake Thumbprint Cookies

As I bake my way through Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook this week’s cookie is the cheesecake thumbprint. Sugary (but not overly sweet) and tangy – combining the silky creaminess of cheesecake and the easily edible size of a mini cookie into one delicious bite.

I’m not one to typically have cream cheese or sour cream in the house (since Mark and I both shun most creamy food of this texture…i.e. mayonnaise), so these were some specialty purchases specifically for the cookies.

Overall the cookies were fairly straightforward, however this is another one of those multi-step process confections.

After making the cream cheese filling in the stand mixer and putting it in the fridge to chill, I had to wash out the mixer to then use it for the bottom cookie part.

You make the cookie, which is a standard butter/flour/sugar/egg yolk kind of flaky-crumbly cookie, slightly indenting the top prior to baking, which is where the cream cheese filling will go.

thumbprint cookies with indentations prior to baking
thumbprint cookies with indentations in between baking stints

Bake for 10 minutes, pull out of the oven and RE-indent, and bake for another few minutes.

THEN you have to bring the cookies out to allow to cool.

Fill with the chilled cheesecake batter and pop those suckers back in the oven for a few more minutes until fully baked.

filled cookies ready for baking
filled cookies ready for baking

Et voila! Oh wait, not quite yet, you then have to chill the cookies for at least 4 hours, or even better, overnight, before serving.

Store in a container with wax paper in the fridge.

In these end, these were fairly easy and straightforward, but it is one of those recipes where you are moving and shaking and need to be on top of the baking. Definitely not a set it and forget it drop cookie.

I would definitely make these again for a March Madness party or potluck dinner since you can quickly and easily churn out a fair number. They don’t take up a lot of space and they don’t spread when baked so you can pop them out in a tiny kitchen no problem!

final cheesecake thumbprint cookies - fully baked
final cheesecake thumbprint cookies – fully baked

Black coffee and cheesecake thumbprints sound like a perfect breakfast for me! Enjoy.

final "bread"

Martha Stewart Cinnamon Raisin Bread Fail

I’ve never really tried to make bread before. Sure there were childhood forays with the electric bread maker craze (which churns out deliciouuuuuuus bread that we consumed within minutes after waiting hours upon hours for it to cook), and quick breads like banana bread, pumpkin bread, scones and the like.

But I’ve never made yeast breads (except I guess pizza dough which is super easy).

To start this adventure, I chose the Martha Stewart recipe for cinnamon raisin bread, mainly because it called for all-purpose flour and not bread flour (which I need to purchase but haven’t yet) and because I had all the other ingredients on hand.

Suffice it to say, I don’t know what happened, but it didn’t work out. I kind of knew it wasn’t going to turn out well when the dough barely rose, but I kept going anyway.

Here are some of the ways in which I may have failed:

1. I used the Rapid Rise Yeast which I use for pizza dough. This type of yeast is typically added to the dry ingredients, as opposed to active dry yeast which is typically added to the warm wet ingredients (and bubbles up before everything else is added). The recipe called for active dry yeast, but I didn’t have any of that at home. Following the instructions (but subbing the rapid rise yeast instead), I added the yeast to the wet ingredients. So maybe the bread didn’t work because I used the wrong type of yeast.

But this is a head scratcher because on the yeast company’s website it does say you can make this substitution; you just can’t substitute the opposite way (active dry yeast in place of rapid rise). Hmmmm….

Also when I added the yeast, I did get that bready smell right away, which I took as a good sign.

Maybe I killed the yeast? Maybe it was old? I didn’t take the temperature of my warm milk (as instructed) before I added the yeast….so maybe it was too hot?

2. I used stale raisins. I don’t see why this should matter but the little buggers were like sticky pebbles.

rolled bread dough sprinkled with cinnamon and raisins
rolled bread dough sprinkled with cinnamon and raisins

3. I let the bread rise twice as called for in the recipe: the first time for an hour and the second time for 40 minutes or so after shaping the loaf. Perhaps I didn’t put it in a warm enough place? I just left it covered on the counter.

bread dough rising
bread dough rising

4. My “filling” wasn’t quite right. Once the cinnamon raisin dough has risen, you were supposed to roll out the dough and “sprinkle” the filling over top. I don’t really see how sprinkle was the correct word though since you were to mix cinnamon and sugar with water. Mine was more of a paste. And so that egg wash to help it stick was probably unnecessary.And so the interior of the dough was really really wet and soggy. See my photo versus the pic in the cookbook.

All these minor errors probably added up to the undercooked and unrisen center. I mean, it still tasted yummy what with the oozy cinnamon sugar core. It was kind of like a cinnamon roll and some icing would have been appreciated. But it was not bread. Le sigh. I will try again one of these days. Maybe with the correct (and newly purchased) yeast.

final "bread"
final “bread”

Martha Stewart Linzer Hearts (Part II)

I’ve submitted this post to the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Chinelo from Good Cake Day. The theme is LOVE IN ALL ITS FORMS. our-growing-edge-badge

In Part I of this cookie recipe from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, I blanched hazelnuts to grind into hazelnut flour for our Valentine’s Day Linzer Heart cookies. I made three variations on this cookie: plain hazelnut shortbread cookies, Nutella sandwich cookies and strawberry jam-filled heart cutout cookies.

After my trials and tribulations with making the hazelnut flour, I was then on to making the actual cookie dough. FINALLY!

Mixing the hazelnut flour, all-purpose flour, cinnamon, salt and baking powder was easy enough. Beating the butter and sugar, egg yolks and vanilla extract also went smoothly.

I combined the dry ingredients into the wet in the stand mixer, and then turned the dough out onto a floured work surface to form into disks for refrigeration. This is where I feel I kind of got tripped up. The dough was pretty dry and crumbly. I think it was generally supposed to be, but perhaps mine was even drier than necessary.

Nonetheless, I got it formed into disks and into the fridge overnight.

The next morning I took it out to roll it think to start cutting out my heart shapes. The dough crumbled apart.

It split all over the place I couldn’t get it to roll smoothly.

I left it for about 30 minutes to warm up a bit and tried again, more successfully, but still with some struggle.

Unfortunately or fortunately, I doubled the recipe so that I would have enough cookies to bring to the art show. But working in a small NYC kitchen, this meant I was manipulating about 1/5 of the dough at a time – rolling it out, cutting it into hearts, placing those hearts on a baking sheet in the freezer while rerolling the dough scraps to cut more hearts to place on a second sheet to put in the freezer. Now mind you, I only own two cookie sheets to my name.

So once the first sheet went in to the oven, I worked more dough on the counter. Pulled the cookies out of the oven, moved them onto a wire cooling rack, and turned around to place a fresh sheet of cut dough hearts on the hot pan and put it in the freezer to chill before repeating the process again and again.

This literally took me ALL DAY.

I could only work with so much dough at a time and was limited by the number of cookie sheets and space. It was like a well-choreographed dance of shifting dough and baked cookies around the room from counter to pan to rack to plate.

piles of plain hazelnut shortbread cookies, awaiting jam or Nutella
piles of plain hazelnut shortbread cookies, awaiting jam or Nutella

The other problem I encountered cutting out the hearts was that my two heart cookie cutters were too close in size. Basically I needed to cut 2 types of hearts: big ones that would be the bottom half of the cookie, and big ones with a heart cut out of the middle to go on top so that the jam can shine through.

Well my “smaller” heart cookie cutter was only slightly smaller than my “big” cookie cutter, so every time I tried to punch out a smaller heart from the bigger heart, the bigger cookie would break apart (remember my dough was already dry and crumbly).

So I did two things: 1. I simply (not so easily though) used a knife to cut out tiny heart shapes from half of the big hearts to be the top part of the cookie; 2. I decided to cut some stand-alone small heart cookies and make them into Nutella sandwich cookies – no middle hole included.

linzer heart cutouts
Baked heart cut outs

All in all, it worked out for the best. I had a TON of cookies in various sizes and flavors, which was fun. They were: big strawberry jam-filled cookies with heart-shaped holes in the middle for the jam to peek out; small heart sandwich cookies filled with Nutella; big heart cookies ~ as is, plain; and teeny tiny heart cookies (created when I used a knife to cut out the tiny hearts from the bigger cookies) tossed in powdered sugar.

Thanks to everyone who tried the cookies and gave rave reviews. They were about 24 hours in the making, my back hurt when I was done, and while I’m proud to have accomplished such an in-depth recipe, I don’t think I’ll be making them again for a long while (unless someone sends me some pre-made hazelnut flour).

jam-filled Linzer Heart Cookies

Martha Stewart Valentine’s Day Cookies

As it’s Monday, it’s time for another recipe recap from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook from which I’ve been recreating recipes. This time I tackled some sweet heart shaped cookies just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Martha Stewart's Linzer Heart Cookies
Martha Stewart’s Linzer Heart Cookies – my final outcome

As you may or may not recall, I’ve been drawing and painting pretty much my entire life, however I’ve just recently gotten the kick in the pants I needed to buckle down and paint regularly, in the form of an opportunity to exhibit some paintings in an art show in Brooklyn.

Since the art exhibit was put on by a collaborative collective of women artists and entrepreneurs, self-funded, and all of that good stuff, I figured I would also contribute some snacks to the event. Any why not some Valentine’s Day Linzer Heart cookies from Martha Stewart?

The cookies are essentially hazelnut shortbread cookies filled with jam and dusted with powdered sugar. While the original recipe calls for raspberry jam, I substituted strawberry jam, and to be frank, by the end of the whole process I kind of gave up and made a few sandwich cookies with Nutella and left some cookies plain instead of working with the jam.

I knew the dough needed to be chilled overnight, so I started on Thursday with the intention of finishing up the cookies on Friday.

I have to tell you, these were probably the hardest, most time-consuming cookies I’ve ever made, including French macarons, which should tell you something.

First, there was the matter of the hazelnut flour. I really should have thought ahead and purchased pre-made hazelnut flour, but I didn’t. Instead, I wanted to stay true to the recipe, which calls for grinding blanched hazelnuts in a food processor to create the flour.

All well and good, except I didn’t really account for the incredible annoyance that is blanching hazelnuts (in other words, removing the skins).

You see, I ordered regular, whole hazelnuts from Amazon. No problem, right? Wrong.

While these were fine and dandy as far as hazelnuts go, they weren’t blanched. Honestly I glazed right over the “blanched” direction in the cookbook the first time I read it. Like, “What’s that? Who cares?”

When I sat down to actually make the dough, I reread “blanched” and thought, ehhh whatever. So I Googled “Do I really have to blanch hazelnuts?”

Turns out the answer is Yes. Damn it. If you don’t blanch the nuts the skins can cause a seriously bitter taste. So I Googled “How to blanch hazelnuts.”

In theory, it’s a fairly straightforward process: boil water and baking soda, add nuts, boil for a few minutes, drop nuts in cold water and gently rub the skins off. Voila! Blanched hazelnuts.

Here’s what really happened: Boiled water and baking soda – no sweat. Added nuts. Water turned pink-black (as forewarned) and boiled over. Turned off heat. Mopped up puddles of water everywhere.

pot of water and baking soda boiling over pink water from hazelnuts
pot of water and baking soda boiling over with hazelnuts

Turned heat back on medium. Pot immediately boiled over.

how to blanch hazelnuts
boiling hazelnuts to blanch them – removing the skins

And so on and so forth until I couldn’t take it anymore and I scooped out the nuts to dunk them in a cold bowl of water. (PS. My white pot will never be white again. After many washes, it is still stained yellowy-pink.)

cold water turned black from hazelnuts
hazelnuts in bowl of cold water

Then came the tedious process of rubbing the skins off of the hazelnuts in the bowl of water. Fine. But what to do with the sticky skins? I could barely get two nuts clean before having to shake my hand violently over the trash can to get the skins to break loose.

I moved on to rinsing the nuts under running water, which worked okay, but not having a garbage disposal, the sink quickly filled with water and the drain was clogged with particles of skins that fell apart when I tried to grab them.

Ugh. All in all, I would NOT do this again. Take the shortcut, Hannah. Buy the hazelnut flour.

hazelnut flour
hazelnut flour

Okay, fine, got the hazelnuts where I need them in the form of powder. Now onto the dough….in Part II.

mmmmm crispy edges and chewy center on this chocolate chip cookie

Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn’t love a chocolate chip cookie?!?! I believe they have been named the #1 favorite cookie to bake at home. There are a million good recipes out there for chocolate chip cookies, and for years, my go-to was from The Joy of Cooking (still a fave).

But since I’m working on all of Martha Stewart’s recipes from her Baking Handbook and I was desperately in the mood for chocolate chip cookies, I figured I’d try out hers!

In this book, she actually gives a recipe for chocolate chunk cookies, but since all I had on hand was mini chocolate chips, then mini chocolate chips it would be 🙂

I always tend to start with the fairly standard ratio to make basic drop cookies: 1 part flour, to 1 part sugar (usually half white and half brown) to 1 part butter. 1 egg per 1 part. 1-2 teaspoons vanilla per your liking, 1 teaspoon each of salt and baking soda, and 1 part chocolate chips.

Then you can play around with these ratios to find your ideal taste and texture.

For instance, here I was going for flatter, crisper cookies with harder edges and softer middles. So we upped the butter a little bit.

Also, for most drop cookies, you want to start with room temp butter. But I actually like to melt it slightly in the microwave which also helps create the flatter cookie.

My tips:

  1. Don’t eat them when they’re hot. The temperature masks the flavor.
  2. Realize that they are going to spread in the oven and don’t place them too close together – some of mine ran into each other creating more square-ish shapes.
  3. Create 5 tablespoon-sized balls for really really huge cookies that you can then stack together with icing to turn them into a layered cookie cake! (This is my next project with these cookies).
  4. If you have chocolate chunks, go for that instead of chips since the chips kind of get lost in the expanse of cookie. It would have been deliciously chocolatey to have bitten into a huge hunk of chocolate.
  5. Eat with milk or a malty porter.

My execution was pretty good on this recipe, although I made them a bit larger than Martha did (about 2.5 tablespoon balls). With the excess of butter they definitely spread out upon baking.

I cooked them until the edges and tops were golden brown, and then let them cool on the sheets for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire cooling rack.

They turned out delicious – flat and crispy as desired.

 

Tips from Martha: Preheating the Oven (Part 2 of 2)

As I read through Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook I’m picking up pearls of baking wisdom. But many of the recommendations and To Do’s don’t have a lot of the “Why” behind them. In these “Tips from Martha” I further investigate the deeper reasoning.

Last week, we discussed the argument that preheating the oven is a waste of energy. Today, we look at why one would need to preheat the oven for 20-30 minutes as recommended by Martha Stewart in this cookbook.

Here’s some insight into any cookbook’s guidance to preheat: Since all ovens aren’t the same (an axiom that covers the differences in oven temperatures between say gas and electric ovens or ovens by different manufacturers), cookbook authors must come up with some instruction that will get the majority of at-home cooks to the same end result.

It’s like the scientific method from 7th grade: you have to create a duplicable experiment! If the authors said, “Don’t preheat the oven” they wouldn’t then be able to follow through with reliable cook times, not knowing how long it would take anyone’s oven to get to the right temp.

SO! Part A: Cookbooks must tell you to preheat the oven so that everyone is starting from the same temperature and thus can fully follow the subsequent directions. Therefore, no matter whether or not you think preheating the oven wastes energy, it doesn’t matter: the cookbook author must advise to preheat.

BUT! Back to the deeper question at hand about preheating for 20-30 minutes. Cookbook author Dorie Greenspan explains:

“Mr. RepairMan [who was there to fix her oven] explained that ovens cycle on and off to maintain an average temperature…And that some ovens cycle further up and down from the desired temperature than others. And that some cycle more frequently than others.

“Mr. RepairMan said that when the oven light goes off for the first time, the oven is hotter than the temperature it’s set to.  For example, he explained that my oven swings plus/minus about 25 degrees F.  [And], if I set it for 350F…when it first preheats, it’ll go as high as 400F.  According to Mr. RepairMan, the oven hits its stride and keeps the most consistent temperature after it has cycled on and off three times.”

Ah ha! So there you go! Preheating the oven for a longer period of time gives the oven more time to heat to the correct temperature without crazy temperature swings. My math brain would like to illustrate with this simple graph:

Preheating Oven
Graph of when the oven temperature normalizes to desired temperature. Fabricated numbers for illustrative purposes only.

At this point your cookbook author is more confident that the directions that follow about baking time will lead you, Dear Home Cook, to a more reliable and delicious outcome.

All this leads me to conclude that it makes sense for Martha to tell us to preheat the oven for 20-30 minutes to ensure that we are on the same page temperature-wise before moving forward and thus can expect the best outcome, all else equal.

I would say this though: If you get to know your oven well (probably by employing an oven thermometer), you may discover that you can cut your preheat time or not preheat at all if you work out how much longer you may need to bake to make up that time.

Isn’t math fun!? Further thoughts?

warm Lebkuchen with icing

German Spice Cookies: Lebkuchen with Icing

This holiday season, my mom and I baked up a batch of these Lebkuchen ~ traditional German Christmas cookies that taste like gingerbread, but surprisingly have NO ginger in them! (Is that a fair description, Oliver?)

finished German spice cookie
yummy cookie!

The cookie recipe we tried was actually one that she received from Viking River Cruises (I guess mom’s on that mailing list).

They Lebkuchen cookies were chewy and certainly extremely spicy and rich. Definitely to be enjoyed with an English Breakfast or Earl Grey tea, or perhaps a light German beer like Paulaner or Spaten.

The ingredients and steps are fairly straightforward, but be warned that you need to plan ahead because the dough is to be chilled overnight. Have fun!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses
(We didn’t end up having enough honey so we added more molasses to make up 1 cup of these two ingredients ~ 1 to 1 substitution)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 + 3/4 cup flour (plus more for dusting)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg

German spice cookies ingredients
German spice cookies ingredients

The recipe then also calls for 1/3 cup of candied citron and 1/3 cup of hazelnuts ~ We omitted both of these.

Okay, side note here: I did not know what citron was…I assumed it was candied lemon peel. Ooops. No. It is not. It is a fruit unto itself. There are different varietals and guess what one of them is? Etrog!!! As in Lulav and Etrog! (Staples in the Sukkot holiday for my non-Jewish friends.) So that’s a fun factoid for ya! Here’s a recipe for making your own candied citron.

To make the icing, you will need:
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of milk (or water)
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of powdered sugar

To Make:
1. Bring honey and molasses to a boil and then remove from heat


2. Stir in the brown sugar, egg, lemon juice and zest
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the 2 + 3/4 cup flour, baking soda, and spices
4. Stir the molasses mixture into the flour mixture (also this is when you would add the candied citron and chopped hazelnuts)


5. Cover & chill overnight

Next day:
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
7. Roll out a bit of your dough on a floured surface until about a 1/4 inch thick, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky
8. Use a cookie cutter or clean glass to cut circular cookies out of the dough [Repeat #7 and #8 with the rest of the dough]


9. Move the cookies to the baking sheets and cook for 10-12 minutes
10. Transfer the cookies to a rack for cooling and brush with icing while still warm
11. Decorate with almonds, candied citron or crystallized ginger

While the cookies are baking, make the icing as follows:
1. Heat sugar, milk (or water) and vanilla on the stove but do not boil


2. Remove from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar
3. Reheat as needed to maintain the liquid state as you brush it over the top of the warm cookies