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Christmas cookies with international flair

Lebkuchen cookies

Lebkuchen

This traditional German ginger cookie can be used as the base of decorated cutout cookies. If you choose to go that route, you will need to whip up some Royal Icing to apply after the cookies have been lightly glazed. 

Cookies

• 1/2 cup honey

• 3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

• 1/2 cup molasses

• 1 large egg

• 2 teaspoons each finely grated lemon peel and orange peel [or 1/4 teaspoon each lemon oil and orange oil]

• 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/2 cup finely chopped blanched almonds

• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

• 1 teaspoon ground ginger

• 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

• 1 teaspoon ground cloves

• 1/4 cup  mini diced ginger, finely ground [This is crystalized ginger that is best ground in a food processor. You can substitute additional ½ teaspoon of ground ginger; however, you will lose some sweetness.]

Glaze

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons water, lemon or apple juice 

Sliced almonds for decorating, optional

Royal Icing for decorating, optional

Instructions

This is a two-day process.

Day one: Bring the honey, brown sugar and molasses to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally. Remove the mixture from the heat and cool until lukewarm. 

In a large bowl, beat together the cooled honey mixture, egg and the lemon and orange peel or oil. Add the flour, baking soda, almonds, spices and ground mini diced ginger; stir until well combined. The dough will be on the stiff side, but also very sticky. 

Cover the bowl and refrigerate dough overnight.

Day two: Preheat the oven to 350°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 9-inch by 13-inch rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick. Cut the dough into rectangles [a size of 3 inches by 2 inches works well] or into holiday shapes. 

Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes. While the cookies are baking, prepare the glaze by stirring the liquid into the confectioners’ sugar until mixture is smooth. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and immediately brush on the glaze with a pastry brush. Let the cookies cool completely before decorating.

Store the bars in an airtight container. 

Springerle Cookies

Springerle

These traditional Bavarian cookies boast crisp tops adorned with delicate designs and soft, chewy bottoms. The anise oil in the recipe gives them a “black licorice” flavor. If you love the look but not the taste, you can substitute lemon oil, or almond or vanilla extract. 

Ingredients

• 4 large eggs 

• 5 cups confectioners’ sugar (sifted) 

• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

• 2 tablespoons of milk

• 1/2 cup butter, softened but not melted

• 1/2 teaspoon of anise oil [or 1 teaspoon of lemon oil, or almond or vanilla extract]

• 4 cups cake or all-purpose flour 

• Cornstarch for dusting the cookie molds

• And salt to taste

Instructions

This is a multi-day process. 

1. Dissolve the baking powder in the milk and set aside. Beat eggs until thick and lemon colored. Beat together the butter, sugar and salt until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs and flavoring. Gently fold in the flour.

2. Divide the dough in half, shape both halves into disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to three days.

3. When you are ready to shape the cookies, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough, one disk at a time, to a thickness of 1/2-inch. Dust your springerle board [cookie mold] or roller with cornstarch. Firmly press board onto dough and lift off gently. Cut the formed dough into individual cookies. Gently place each cookie onto the parchment lined tray. 

5. Set cookies in a safe place [I like to use the cold oven] and allow them to dry overnight or up to 24 hours. The goal is to set the print by drying out the top of the cookie. 

6. To bake your springerle, preheat the oven to 325°F. Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes or until the bottoms begin to color. The tops should remain white. 

7. Store cookies in an airtight container.

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