Christmas is one of the times of the year I like best. Mainly because it gives me the chance to buy presents for other people, drink alcohol in the middle of the day everyday and go to parties on a fairly regular basis. However one requires fortification for all these activities along with something to bring to all those parties, so to prevent you having to worry a minute longer about how to keep your energy up and impress the neighbours, I bring you a recipe for the easiest Christmas cookie around, German spiced lebkuchen…
I adore these soft spiced biscuits so much that I normally raid Lidl this time and year and buy about eight boxes, eating them up until Easter when I get sidetracked again by hot cross buns. So imagine my glee when I discovered a recipe for them that is so easy, so quick and so simple, I could knock up a batch in the time it took for the yeast to get ready for my Christmas chestnut doughnuts…
Oven on, I melted the butter and the remains of a bottle of honey on the stove, topping it up to the right amount with the syrup I bought for a recent pumpkin pie. I measured out my ingredients, delighted that I finally had a reason to use the random bag of ground almonds I’ve had knocking around in the cupboard for about a year, and added the spices, popping a pinch of mace in for good luck too. A quick stir with the spatula to combine the wet and dry and ingredients and I had a lovely soft cookie dough in under 5 minutes.
I plucked pieces off and squashed the balls of dough to make disc shapes on a greased and paper tray and baked about half the cookies in a batch since I didn’t have enough trays for all them at once. I noticed the dough dried out a bit in between, so I’d recommend wrapping it in a bit of clingfilm between batches. You can also form the discs, put paper between them and freeze them so you always can always offer fresh cookies even if people call unexpectedly. I got about 30 cookies from this recipe.
The cookies took about 12 minutes to cook and colour and I don’t find my oven runs hot, so check after 10 minutes to make sure these don’t burn. Add a moment or two more if you’re baking them from frozen. Transfer them to a wire rack and cool them for about 15 minutes if you are icing them. I tried one (just for research purposes you understand!) without the the icing and they were lovely as they were, but look a little bit insipid when left plain.
I mixed up the icing as instructed, using only one tablespoon of water and if I’m honest, I think it was a bit runny and probably didn’t really need the water at all. I iced them using a small spatula and they dripped a fair bit as the icing set, so when I do these again, I’ll skip the water and just use egg white and icing sugar.
The icing set quickly, making this a fairly simple step as you just don’t want to complicate such a simple recipe. I sneaked another one once they had set and was very pleased with how they turned out. Soft and melting (despite the lack of fat) they were warm with ginger and left a tingle thanks to the black pepper and mace that isn’t too savoury or grown up with the hint of sweetness of the icing. I imagine these being just as popular with the kids as with the adults.
These are a fantastic biscuit. Quick and easy to make, great fun to do with the kids, keep well and are much more nuanced with festive spice than shopbought versions. I didn’t expect to be considering another contender for biscuit of the year so soon after the graham crackers, but these are definitely in the running! Maybe I’ll have a seasonal category just for these?