Tag Archives: holiday

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

 

Easy Winter Peppermint Bark

One of my all-time favorite holiday treats is peppermint bark. I’m particularly taken with the Ghirardelli version which uses dark or milk chocolate layered with white chocolate, and what appear to be crushed up bits of candy cane.

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But I sometimes feel like store-bought chocolates can be a bit waxy and I strongly prefer dark chocolate to other kinds. (85% cacao is an excellent mid-afternoon snack to wake up and because it’s so strong, no fear of eating the whole bar!) It seems like most of the peppermint bark in stores has at least some element of white chocolate in it, which I could do without.

So I decided to make my own wintery peppermint bark with deep dark chocolate, crushed up candy canes, and a bit of peppermint extract for an extra minty kick.

Note that you can use other kinds of chocolate to suit your preference! It’s such a simple recipe, but you’ll need wax paper or even better, shallow silicone ice trays which will make perfect little rectangles! Or you could find some fun holiday shapes like pine trees! Or make your own Hanukkah gelt if you find a tray with circlular molds.

Here’s what to do:

Melt your chocolate. I chose a mix of 70% and 86% cacao which is bitter but still palatable as a dessert. (Pick your mix of favorite chocolates!) Use a glass bowl set over a pot of boiling water (not touching the water) and continually stir the chocolate until it’s a smooth glossy liquid. Start with either a bag of chocolate chips or 5 standard size bars. This will make enough treats to eat yourself and share with a few friends.

Depending on how much chocolate you use, you will want a candy cane ratio such that each bite gets some chunks. For 5 chocolate bars, I used a total of 8 regular candy canes (they taste so much better than those round red and white dinner mints). First I finely crushed up 3 candy canes in a Ziploc bag using a meat hammer (you could also use the back of a frying pan).

Once the chocolate was melted and smooth, I turned off the stove heat and mixed in my 3 crushed candy canes and ½ tsp of peppermint extract to really amplify the mint flavor which can get lost in the overpowering dark chocolate (guess that’s why it’s standard to use white chocolate).

Line a pan with a lip (I used a pretty small one since I only used 5 chocolate bars) with the wax paper so that the paper hangs over all the edges. Pour the chocolate mix onto the wax paper and use a spatula to spread it evenly (or evenly pour the mixture into your silicone ice trays).

 

Then, in the Ziploc bag, I crushed up the remaining 5 candy canes into a mix of small and medium chunks. Don’t crush them into too fine a powder or else you won’t get that satisfying candy cane crunch in your bark.

Sprinkle these crushed candy canes over the chocolate along with a smattering of sea salt (a trick I learned from Carla Hall on The Chew).

Refrigerate until hard. Either pop the chocolates out of the silicone mold or break up the large chocolate sheet into bite sized chunks with a knife.

Wrap them up in cellophane or craft paper and make cute tags for friends and family! Yum!

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