Monday, December 3, 2007
It's Christmas time - lebkuchen
Now that it's December, I feel I can officially get excited about Christmas. The trees and decorations have been all around town since November, but I don't feel like I can start celebrating until December begins. But now it's time to get into the full swing of Christmas baking!
I've already made my Christmas pudding and cake and they are maturing nicely in cool, dark places. Now I can turn my attention to spiced biscuits, panforte, panettone and all sorts of other sweet treats that will make good presents.
I'm not the only one preparing for Christmas baking. Susan from Food Blogga also feels that baking and eating is part of the true Christmas spirit and she is hosting an "Eat Christmas cookies" blog event. People from around the world have been sending in their favourite recipes, usually accompanied by a story about why these biscuits are special in their family.
There's many dishes I associate with Christmas, As I've already blogged about my grandmother's shortbread, this post is about my Aunt Margaret's lebkuchen biscuits. Margaret is of Austrian heritage and each Christmas she always made a huge batch of lebkuchen biscuits, a spicy biscuit topped with lemon icing. Rather than being eaten on Christmas Day, we feasted on them in the lead-up to Christmas and afterwards. After many years, I've finally obtained the recipe and this year I made my first batch of lebkuchen. They were delicious and will definitely become part of my Christmas baking repertoire each year.
1 cup honey
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup treacle or molasses
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons finely chopped mixed peel
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 cup finely chopped blanched almonds (or use almond meal)
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
2 teaspoons hot water
1 egg, beaten
3 cups self-raising flour
1 1/2 cups plain flour
Mix honey, treacle, sugar, spices, mixed peel and almonds. Stir soda into boiling water and add to the fruit/sugar mixture along with beaten egg. Mix in flour, one cup at a time. This makes a very stiff mixture and must be thoroughly blended. Leave at least overnight in the fridge to ripen*.
Next day, roll out mixture to approximately 1/2 inch thick, cut into bars/shapes, place on baking paper-lined baking trays and bake in moderate oven (180 degrees Celsius) for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks. While still warm, ice with lemon or orange-flavoured icing (I prefer lemon). Leave to set completely before storing in airtight containers. Makes approximately 80-90 biscuits.
* Note - dough can be left two or three days to ripen in fridge if desired - it only improves the flavour.