Chocolate Coated Lebkuchen

Winter is my favourite time of year. It’s not just because the weather turns cold, or because the holidays are just around the corner, but the main reason I like winter is because of the food that is in season and the meals that are traditionally eaten at this time of year. Rich stews, game, roasted fruits, spiced cakes and hot drinks- perhaps it’s just that anything warm will taste good after coming in from the cold. British cooking also comes into its own in winter, with pies, casseroles, and roasts, all of which are easy to make, and benefit from slow cooking. Similarly, a lot of tasty methods of preserving food for the winter are traditionally used now, like making confit, jamming, or curing, which have a rich gastronomic history. Finally, the family feasts during winter, like Christmas or Thanksgiving, where people make a real effort with what they are cooking, are something I continually look forward to year-round. Winter really is a great time for food.

BBC Good Food Magazine recently did a feature, asking chefs which foodstuff they thought “Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without”. There was the usual set of answers- mince pies, mulled cider, or roast potatoes- but for me, it’s spiced cakes. Treats like stollen or lebkuchen are one of my favourite foods of winter, and invoke all the appropriate childhood memories which will keep me eating them year after year. Lebkuchen, which are little spiced cakes, a little like gingerbread, come from Germany- another good cuisine for winter. Originally invented by monks in the 13th century, what we might see today in stores have evolved from honey cakes or pepper cakes, which were traditionally given as gifts at this time of year.

So if you are looking to make a few ‘food gifts’ for Christmas, or just fancy a Saturday afternoon baking session, give Lebkuchen a try. They’re easy to make, fun to decorate, and keep well- the few I have left over from over a week ago are still very enjoyable to eat with the morning coffee. But then again, maybe it’s just that everything tastes better in winter.

Chocolate Coated Lebkuchen

Makes around 24 cookies. I used dark chocolate with orange when making my lebkuchen, I think the flavours complement the spices very well. The recipe here is adapted from one on BBC Good Food.

250g plain flour
85g ground almonds
2tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch each ground cloves, grated nutmeg, ground pepper
85g butter
1 orange, finely grated zest
100g icing sugar
1 egg white, beaten
100g chocolate

1. Make the dough. Heat the honey and butter in a pan over a low heat until homogeneous. Meanwhile, mix together the flour, almonds, spices, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the melted butter and honey, then mix well. Cover and chill.
2. Make the cookies. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. On a floured chopping board, roll our the dough until it is around 2/3cm thick, then use cookie cutters to cut out the shapes you want. Alternatively, just roll them into little balls, pressing down on them, to just make round cookies. Bake for 15 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.
3. Ice and chocolate-coat the cookies. Mix the egg white and icing sugar together. Then, using a pastry brush, coat the cookies in the icing mix, and leave to dry. When dry, melt the chocolate (either over a water bath, or if you are careful, in the microwave). Again, use a pastry brush to coat the cookies.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Cranberry and Cinnamon Pannetone « oxfood

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