Old-fashioned Lebkuchen Stars and Hearts

This is the classic recipe for Christmas Cookies from old Germany, or Switzerland (if you'd prefer). A recipe, I was hoping to find for a long time. Thanks to Sara Kelly Iaia and her fine memories, collected in the book "Festive Baking", I am happy to bake the first cookies for this Christmas.

The honey and the quantity of the fragrant spices make these cookies unique. I would advise not to skip any of the spices or to change their quantity. I am pretty conservative when it comes to perfumed spices. I think the simpler ingredients make one dish tastier. But here, the spices are in perfect unison.  

for the cookies:

490 g all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp powdered anise
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger

225 g honey
160 g light brown sugar
134 g unsalted butter
1 large egg

1. Sift the flour in a bowl.
2. In another bowl, sift all the spices.
3. Heat the honey, sugar and butter in a heavy bottomed pan over a low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Do not allow to boil.
4. Remove the butter from the heat and stir in the spices.
5. Beat in the flour, reserving a handful of it in the bowl. Let the dough cool a little bit.
6. Lightly beat the egg and add to the dough. 
7. Knead the dough with hands, using the reserved flour.
8. Wrap the dough in clean foil and let it rest at room temperature overnight.


The next day...

1. Divide the dough in two. Roll out each half in between two sheets of wax paper, parchment paper or cling foil. The dough will feel harder than the day before.
2. Using a star and a heart cookie cutter, cu out cookies.
3. Collect all the scraps, knead, roll and cut out cookies. Arrange all the cut outs on a lined with parchment paper baking pan.
4. Decorate with sliced almonds and raisins.
5. Brush with slightly whisked egg white.
6. Bake in the middle of the oven for 7-10 min, or until golden.
7. Leave the cookies to cool on a wire rack.
8. Store in an air-tight container for up to two months.

Another variation of finishing the cookies is to leave them plain, without the decoration and to brush melted chocolate (or chocolate ganache) on them after baking until they are still warm.


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