Wednesday, December 18, 2013

LEBKUCHEN - GERMAN SPICE COOKIES


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts















Back home in Germany, I never cared too much for Lebkuchen. They are one of the Christmas goodies that show up earlier and earlier in stores, and I hate being reminded of the cold and darkness of winter, when we still have a gorgeous late summer (and snow shoveling is something that I don't even want to think about!)

If "Cooks Illustrated" had not published a recipe for German spice cookies, I would never have dreamed of making them myself. Sheer curiosity prompted me to try it ("Americans and German Lebkuchen, haha!")

Freshly baked and incredibly good!
Reducing the sugar a little, and substituting some of the white flour with whole wheat, the result was absolutely amazing!

Instead of the usual chewy, dry-ish, generic store-bought stuff, these Lebkuchen were delicate and moist.

You could actually taste the toasted hazelnuts; and the spices were spicy in a good way, harmonious, not crude or overpowering.

The first time I made them they vanished so fast, I had to make two more batches, to sustain us until Christmas!

This year I went into a  Lebkuchen and Mohnstollen production frenzy, having to fulfill several special orders for both German specialties. But the spice cookies are so easy to make that even baking a hundred of them didn't feel too daunting.

I like nut bits to chew on, so I don't process them to a really fine meal. Moreover, I find that cookies with coarser nut meal spread less.

If you want you can brush the bottom with chocolate - but to me this seems a bit overkill. The cookies can really hold their own, they don't need any further enhancement!

These cookies can hold their own, they don't need further enhancement

 LEBKUCHEN - GERMAN SPICE COOKIES (adapted from "Cook's Illustrated")
(48 - 50)

177 g/6.2 oz whole hazelnuts, toasted
142 g/5 oz whole almonds, toasted
150 g/5.3 sugar
3 g/0.1 oz cinnamon, ground (1 ½ tsp.)
½ tsp. cardamom, ground
½ tsp. nutmeg, ground
3 tbsp. orange zest (2 oranges)
2 tbsp. lemon zest (2 lemons)
175 g/6.2 oz all-purpose flour
38 g/1.3 oz whole wheat pastry flour
10 g/0.4 oz Dutch cocoa (2 tbsp.)
¼ tsp. salt
85 g/3 oz unsalted butter (6 tbsp.)
150 g/5.3 oz light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper (about 20 cookies per baking sheet.)

Process nuts, sugar and spices together in food processor to coarse meal. Add orange and lemon zest and pulse to combine.

Add eggs one at a time

Whisk flour, cocoa and salt together in a small bowl. In a stand mixer with paddle, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, last adding vanilla until combined.

Add nut mixture until just incorporated

Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add flour mixture until combined (don't overmix!). Mix in ground nut mixture until just incorporated.

Working with a small truffle scoop, drop dough on baking sheets, 1.5 inches/4 cm apart.


A small truffle scoop works best for placing the cookies on the sheet

Bake cookies for 7 minutes, rotate sheets (if you bake on more than one tier) and continue baking for another 6 - 7 minutes, until edges are set, but centers are still soft, puffy, and elastic to the touch, with tiny holes and cracks. (Cookies will look raw between cracks, and seem underdone!)



Cookies will still look raw between cracks and seem underdone

Let cookies cool on the sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a rack and let them cool completely.

Lebkuchen should be stored in a tin can in a cool place, they keep for at least two weeks.


6 comments:

  1. Those look yummy ! I made some Pfeffernüsse two weeks ago, which are similar in taste, but baked with " Pottasche " ( Potassium carbonate ) as a leavening agent. As long, as they are stored airtight in a tin can, they stay soft and chewy. When they are outside, they become hard in a day or two and are delicious, dunked in coffee. I like them both ways ...

    http://pongousa.blogspot.com/2013/12/pfeffernusse.html

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    1. I don't think I ever made Pfeffernüsse, but perhaps I can use the fat that will come out of the Rosemary Duck for Christmas this way.
      Noch ein zweisprachiger Blog, wie nett! Bisher kenne ich von Kalifornien nur San Diego, aber dort hat es mir sehr gut gefallen.

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  2. Mit Kakao, das ist auch eine schöne Variante! Ich esse einen guten Lebkuchen recht gerne, deine würden mir bestimmt schmecken.

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    1. Ja, sie sind wirklich sehr lecker, ich habe gerade über 100 Stück gebacken, hatte lauter Sonderbestellungen, sie sind sehr beliebt. Ich bin sicher, dass sie dir auch gut schmecken würden, mal sehen, ob meine bis Weihnachten vorhalten :)

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  3. ooh they look so good! I was interested to read what you said about the spreading of the nut particles, I make peanut butter cookies with extra chopped unsalted roast peanuts and crunchy peanut butter and they don't spread too much either, I hadn't realised that was why!

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    1. I always learn by doing or trial and error, and, when I first made these, grinding the nuts to a fine meal, as per the original recipe, the Lebkuchen were rather flat. When I ground them more coarsely, because I like chewing on little nut pieces, a higher cookie was the additional benefit.
      Are your peanut butter cookies on your blog?

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