Christmas biscuits, Lebkuchen, gingerbreads…whatever you call these edible decorations smeared with glacee’ icing, it’s all the same to kids. We gathered five children round the Bistro kitchen table last Sunday to get stuck in, literally, to making and baking them. None left to hang on the tree of course!
It takes a day or two to get totally unstuck after our almost annual Lebkuchen baking. The icing invisibly smears most surfaces – taps, door handles, chair backs, and floors. But what fun! Who cares that the shapes are misshapen, lopsided and of dubious relevance to Christmas. Our cutters included witches, bones and worms; the latter from a Roald Dahl beastly beasts cookbook set.
The recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s in ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’. Her photos are immaculate and show evenly shaped, risen and iced beauties in wonderful monochrome hues of silver, gold and white and threaded with fine florists’ ribbon all ready to hang on the tree. Ours, well, none would have hung up despite our attempts to make holes with a piping nozzle, as she suggests. Most were eaten in situ and few would have lasted more than the evening, let alone til Christmas day! Adults might have forgone eating them anyway if they’d seen the pummeling and pushing, and bits mashed together to roll out again after they’d dropped on the floor.
Lebkuchen (makes around 15 depending on cutter size)
(adapted from Nigella Lawson’s recipe in How to be a Domestic Goddess, p.270)
I missed out from her recipe the Muscovado sugar in one dough batch and the pepper, adding more mixed spice to make them kiddy palatable!
300g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp mixed spice (or 2 if using pepper; or cinnamon and ginger only)
freshly ground pepper – around 1 tsp (if desired)
100g unsalted butter
100g dark muscovado sugar (missed out in one of my batches to make them healthier!)
2 large eggs beaten with 2 tbsp of runny honey
300g sieved icing sugar and drizzle in hot water carefully, stirring rapidly with a fork, until a slow pouring consistency.
You will need: cutters, baking paper, large baking trays, very thin ribbon and a piping nozzle to make holes in the biscuits if you’re intending them as tree decorations.
Place sieved flour, baking powder, salt and ground spices in a food processor. Whizz up a bit then add the sugar, if using, and the butter and pulse and then continue whizzing til fine breadcrumbs. Drizzle in from the top of the processor the egg and honey mixture in a fine stream until the dough forms – not too sticky though. You may not need all the egg mixture. Remove dough, wrap in greaseproof paper and chill in the fridge for an hour if possible. This makes it easier to handle.
Roll out to around 3mm on a floured surface and cut out biscuits. Place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper, or use a scone/pizza mesh. Bake in a pre-heated oven (170°C) for around 12-15 minutes or until very lightly golden. Biscuits harden on removing from the oven so do check them after 10 mins – look underneath and tap; if it sounds hollow and is not doughy on the underside, remove and cool on a wire rack.
Ice as desired and sprinkle with edible gold and silver coloured balls or hundreds and thousands! Whatever the kids like! Lebkuchen will keep for around 3 weeks or so if in an air-tight container. But less if on the tree – probably around a week at most, though we did eat all ours off the tree early January once.
All images © Liz Ayling 2012