Thursday, December 01, 2011

Nut-Free Lebkuchen

I've made these before, but I found a few changes in this year's attempt have been a great improvement in the overall results. The original recipe came from my 1950 edition of The Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook. Over the years I've found other ways to replace the nuts and this year I made use of ground porridge oats, crystalised ginger, and raisins. While they may not be strictly traditional, they are still wonderful. As the lebkuchen are so attractive, be sure to make a hole in the top of a few before baking as you'll want to hang them on the Christmas tree.

I don't own an oblong cookie cutter (I mean, really-does anyone?) so I fashioned a template from a stiff piece of cardboard, and cut around it with a sharp knife. As I do most of my oddball decorated cookies this way, I'm pretty skilled with the technique. If you really feel it is beyond manageability. use a rectangular cutter instead-you don't lose points or anuthing if your Lebkuchen don't have rounded corners. You can go ahead and insert a German joke there if you're feeling inclined.

You Will Need:

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses (or dark treacle)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystalised ginger
2 3/4 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarb
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup cut-up candied citron
1/3 cup quick cooking porridge oats (or regular ones pulsed for a few seconds in a coffee grinder)

Raisins to decorate

Glaze as follows at end of recipe

Mix together the honey and molasses in a saucepan. Bring to a boil (watch it, it foams) and remove from heat. Cool thoroughly.

Mix into the molasses/honey the brown sugar, egg, lemon juice and rind. Stir in ginger. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the wet mixture. At the last, stir in the citron and oats. Mix well and roll dough in cling film tightly. Chill overnight. This is important as it is a very soft dough and will be frustrating bordering on impossible if not well chilled.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease two or three large baking sheets. Flour a work surface generously (trust me, you need plenty of flour for this). Roll out a small amount at a time keeping the remainder chilling. The cookies should be about 1/4 inch thick. Place the Lebkuchen about 2 inches apart on the sheets, place a raisin in the centre, and one in each corner. Press slightly to secure them. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until a finger indentation does not remain when pressed. Upon removing from the oven brush immediately with glaze and carefully remove to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight crock or tin with a slice of apple to mellow the cookies. They should be ready to eat in a week or so (the hard cookies transform into an almost cake-like texture). Be sure to change the apple slice every day so it does not mould.


Boil together 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water until it strands (230 degrees F. Remove from heat and quickly whisk in 1/4 cup confectioner's (icing) sugar. If icing gets sugary as it cools, re-heat slightly and add a bit of water .

Makes about 3 dozen lebkuchen.

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