When living in France as au pairs, Hetty and I made gingerbread for the first time. Before I had always been put off by the strange ingredients that are needed: potash, hartshorn salts, and the least weird gingerbread spices. On a trip to German-speaking Switzerland we came across the gingerbread spice mix. Since it found us (more or less) we took it as a hint to take it home and make gingerbread. Even though we only got to taste the batter (and gave away all the cookies), it was fantastic. We cut out large rectancles, almost brick size – but thin – and decorated them by writing the name of the presentee and “glueing” victorian scraps in shape of santa clause to them.
With that fun experience in mind I began making gingerbread again. In a drawer in my mums kitchen I had seen an unused Springerle rollin pin that I wanted to try. And so I did. What I had not taken into consideration was the fact that the gingerbread squares would rise so much… Hence: no embossed design. Yet very yummy lebkuchen.
Lebkuchen adapted from here
250g brown sugar
100g ground almonds
400g flour (I used wholewheat einkorn)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp gingerbread spice mix
1 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp potash (I used salts of hartshorn instead)
2 tbsp water
Gently heat honey and sugar in a pan on the stove while stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Let it cool down by filling it into a mixing bowl. Add flour, almonds and the spices.
Mix the potash with water (you may use rhum as well) and whisk until the potash has dissolved. Add this mix to the other ingredients and agitate with an electric mixer until a) the mix is not shiny anymore and b) it isn’t sticky anymore. This is tricky and it takes a lot (!) more flour to get to a non-sticky conistency. So add more flour little by little until you like the texture.
This dough should rest at least 12 hours. Since it does not perish quickly I let mine sit for three days and nights! Yes, I swear that is the thruth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The reason: the day after making the batter it was so rigid, I broke a spatula trying to get it out of the bowl. And cut my finger. So after 12 initial hours in the fridge I transferred it to the windows sill where it softened to be baked on day three. The long resting period may also be a reason why it rose so über-dimensionally…
Heat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Roll out the dough on some sprinkled flour until it’s 5mm (between 1/4 and 1/8 inch) thin. This is where I rolled with the Spingerle rolling pin. One could also use cookie cutters or cut rectangles as I did before with Hetty.
On a baking tray lined with parchment paper bake the lebkuchen cookies for, well, as long as they need. I checked first after ten minutes and they were so soft I would not have been able to lift them from the tray. After 20 minutes I got much better results. Nevertheless some thick cookies baked even longer. It depends on your oven, too, so stick around while baking. Supposedly a browned bottom is a sign of them being done.
Set them on a cooling rack, do so gently, and let them cool down. They harden while cooling which makes them last long – unless you eat them all at once. Decorate with sugar icing, almonds or whatever takes your fancy and store in an airtight container. A wedge of an apple in the container is supposed to moisten the gingerbread cookies in case the are to hard to eat.
What do you think? Are you going to give someone a gingerbread house this year? Or are you making a gingerbread man/woman/animal? And how about giving your gingerbread heart..? ~Anna~