Friday, 19 December 2014

christmas cookies - part II


 As I said in an earlier post, when it comes to Christmas, I am all about German cookies. If you are a traditionalist like me you will surely appreciate this old classic: Pfefferkuchen (also known as Lebkuchen and is similar to gingerbread).  I’m being quite literal here when I say “old classic” because Lebkuchen was invented by monks in Franconia, Germany in the 13th century.

The reason I love this treat so much, besides its seven hundred year plus history, is because it’s full of wonderful aromatic spices and honey, and it goes a really long way. I find myself having a couple of these with my morning coffee or afternoon tea for weeks after Christmas as they keep well and are not sickly sweet. Also, they are perfect for dunking!

So here is an oldie but goodie, the wonderfully fragrant Pfferkuchen:

makes around 60

140 g butter
175 g sugar
400 g honey
1 ¾ Tb. dark unsweetened cacao powder
1 ½ Tb. ground cinnamon
1 Tb. ground coriander seed
1 ½ tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground aniseed
1 tsp. dried lemon peel
¾ tsp. ground cardamom
½ tsp. ground allspice
¼ tsp. nutmeg
840 g all -purpose flour
11 g baking powder (or ¾ of a packet)
2 eggs
nuts for garnishing (blanched whole almonds, whole hazelnuts, or walnut halves)
1 tsp. milk

  1. In a medium sauce pan melt the butter on medium low heat
  2. While whisking, add in the cacao and sugar, followed by the honey. This should result in a very glossy smooth texture
  3. Turn up the heat to medium and throw in the spices. Cook for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool
  4. In a large bowl, add the baking powder and flour
  5. In a separate dish, break the eggs and whisk lightly. Pour ¾ of the eggs into the bowl and put the rest in refrigerator for egg-washing your cookies later
  6. Pour in the cooled down honey and spice mixture
  7. Using a mixer, whisk the ingredients together so that they are evenly incorporated. The mixture should resemble clumpy wet sand
  8. Using your hands bring the mixture together until it begins to bind then divide into four sections, about a large handful each
  9. On a lean flat surface, knead each section of dough into a smooth round ball. Be prepared to spend a good 5-7 minutes kneading each section, it’s a good workout! You should end up with four smooth round large balls which you will cover with cling wrap and leave in the refrigerator overnight to rest
  10. The next day, take out a ball of dough and roll it out on a clean flat surface. To ensure the dough does not stick to your surface, I suggest you roll it out on a sheet of parchment paper. Get ready for another good arm workout
  11. You can roll out the sheet as think or as thin as you like, you merely need to adjust the cooking time.  I like to mix it up. Just ensure you bake similar sized cookies at the same time.
  12. Preheat oven to 390 F
  13. Using a cookie cutter, cut out desired shapes or create a freehand shape with a sharp pairing knife
  14. Add a splash of milk to the eggs that you left in the refrigerator and whisk
  15. Top the cookies with a nut or nuts in whatever design that you prefer, then using a brush, give the surface of the cookies an egg wash
  16. Line baking sheet with parchment paper then set your cookies on it about 1.5 inches apart
  17. Bake for 8 minutes for thinner cookies or 10 minutes for thicker ones
  18. Let cool on a rack
  19. Don’t be shocked by how hard your Pfefferkuchen is, it’s completely normal. Just place them in a cookie tin with the lid on but not completely fastened. They should be nice and soft the next day
Perfect for dunking!

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