Sunday, December 08, 2013
Classic Christmas Biscuits-Lebkuchen and Springerle (Nut Free)
Both Lebkuchen, and Springerle need time to mature before they are at their best. A week should be sufficient, but if they are sitting in the tin and not softening into a cakelike texture, add a slice of apple, and change it out every few days.
Last Christmas, Mr. ETB bought me a lovely set of cookie stamps from Rycraft
They work well for springerle, in the absence of proper moulds, or a stamped rolling pin. The biscuits need to sit out overnight, covered to dry before baking. Be sure to leave a note on them, so an unsuspecting person does not drop a 100 pound dumbbell on them. That would ruin your biscuits (Danny left just such a note for his papa, though his read, "If your boss gives you a 100 pound dumbbell that reads, "I worked overtime!", don't drop it here." No, I don't know where he gets it from. Really, I don't). Anyway, you'll need to make space on a counter or table for them overnight.
The Lebkuchen need to be cut into oblongs, but I just cut them rectangular, and round the edges with my thumb. In place of nuts, I use extra sultanas, and dried cranberries to decorate, but I've also used candied ginger, citron, and the like. If you can eat almonds use them, as they are traditional. Sometimes you see them with paper stickers affixed to the front, or pieces of Christmas postage stamps.
For The Springerle (From Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies, 1966)
4 large eggs
1 lb (4 cups) icing sugar
20 drops anise oil (I used 1/2 teaspoon extract)
4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarb
crushed anise seed for coating baking sheet
With a mixer, beat eggs until light. Add sugar slowly, and keep beating on high for 15 minutes or until it looks like soft meringue. Add anise oil. Sift flour and bicarb together. Add to mixture on low speed. Cover bowl tightly with foil, and let stand 15 minutes.
Divide dough in thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into an 8 inch square. It should be just a bit thicker than 1/4 inch. Dust your press or mould with flour and press into dough firmly. With a sharp knife, cut apart and place on a floured surface to stand overnight covered with a tea towel.
Heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet (or 2) and toss with 1-2 teaspoons crushed anise seed. This helps keep the biscuits from sticking.
Brush excess flour from biscuits, and with a wet finger, lightly rub the underside of each. Bake 20 minutes, or until a light straw colour. Cool on racks, then store in an airtight container for a few days before serving.
For the Lebkuchen (From Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, 1950)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarb
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup cut-up citron
1/3 cup chopped nuts (I used sultanas)
Bring honey and molasses to a boil. Cool completely. Add brown sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest. Mix well. Sift together flour, bicarb, and spices. Add to mixture. Stir in citron and sultanas. Mix well, divide into 2, and wrap tightly in cling film. Chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment (You'll be glazing these straight from the oven, and it is messy). Roll dough out 1/3 inch thick, and cut into oblongs. Press in dried fruit or nuts to decorate top. Place on a baking sheet 1 inch apart. Bake 10-12 minutes until they show no imprint when toughed lightly. As soon as they are out of the oven, glaze them (see recipe below) then cool on racks and store a few days before serving.
1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water boiled to 230 degrees F. Remove from heat, and whisk in 1/4 cup icing sugar. Brush the hot icing over the lebkuchen thinly. If it gets hard or frosty-add a bit of water, and gently re-heat it.
Ho, Ho, Ho.