by Heather Harris Brady
These cookies have been on my “to-do” baking list for a long time, for many reasons. My grandmother’s family left Bavaria for this country in 1752, and I like to think of my Shaull ancestors having these cookies at the holidays. Also, they’re so interesting from the standpoint of culinary history.
Long sacred, from the year 1000 to the 1500s the universal craving for exotic spices from the lands of paradise drove the movement around the globe. By the 1400s there were spice inspectors at the gates of Nuremberg making sure only the highest quality crossed into the city, and even English families were eating their way through seventeen pounds of ginger a year.
Another cool thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t have any shortening, butter or white sugar. Instead, it uses honey, and honeycakes trace their origins back to Greece (2400 BC). Later they were a favorite of King Tut as well.
As the dark dreary days blend into each other it’s a lovely thing to go out, buy some fresh spices and fill the house the scent of paradise to ward off the spirits of darkness – spices are as restorative now as ever! Traditionally these cookies are often glazed on top with a simple icing. I’ve opted to coat the bottoms with chocolate instead.
Lebkuchen, Makes about 36 3″ cookies
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. molasses
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 T. lemon juice
1 t. lemon zest
2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground cloves
1 t. ground allspice
1/3 cup ground hazelnuts
1/2 t. ground coriander
Note: You can add 1 t. nutmeg as well if you like.
Chocolate coating: 1/2 package Ghiradelli dark melting wafers & 3 oz. Ghiradelli Midnight dark chocolate
To make the cookies: Warm the molasses and honey together in the microwave for one minute.
Pour it into a mixing bowl with the egg, brown sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest.
Stir in the rest of the ingredients well.
At this point you can wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight. However, I rarely have that kind of time so I just keep going. Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly flour your work surface. Turn out half of the dough and roll it out to 1/4″ thick.
Put the cookies on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, until puffed and barely brown at the edges.
Completely cool the cookies on a rack. To make the chocolate glaze, break the chocolate bar into pieces and combine it in a bowl with the melting wafers. Microwave for one minute, then stir. Microwave for another 30 seconds, and stir until smooth.
Spread the bottom of each cookie with the glaze.
Let the cookies sit while the glaze sets up. After the chocolate hardens, store the cookies in plastic bags, separating the layers with sheets of waxed paper. Add a cut slice of apple or a piece of bread and let them rest for two days. This will soften them slightly while the flavors blend.