Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Cookies: Almond Peanut Florentines, Chocolate Brushed Lebkuchen and Hazelnut Gianduia Spritz Cookies

Christmas Cookies 2011 (0160) by Meeta K. Wolff 

The tree is not up yet. But that is no cause to stress. It’s rather amusing though to see others break out in a cold sweat as they rush around the city with blank stares on their faces. What is not amusing however is to be surrounded by so much aggressiveness. Whatever happened to the joyous spirit of Christmas?

It’s not like Christmas sneaks up on us surprisingly? But each year you would think for some people it creeps up from nowhere to play a sneaky joke on them. And off they all run as if they were stung by a swarm of Christmas hornets. Yesterday Soeren and I were at the large DIY store and the parking lot was fairly full, people were running around loading their cars with Christmas trees, couples were shouting at each other and babies were crying. Chaos!

In contrast, the bakery in the store was welcoming, tranquil and warming, filling the air with the perfume of sugar and spice. We bought ourselves flaky apple puff pastries and some hot chocolate and watched as the shoppers passed by, an aura of hectic surrounding them. We did not allow it to grip us, discussing what we still needed to get on our list. It’s important for me to create these islands of serenity, especially when it is easy to get caught up in the craziness at this time of year.

We walked back out onto the parking lot, oblivious to the cold and noise, our arms hugging boxes of baubles, tinsel and candles. We laughed and joked as we packed the boot of the car and as I turned around my eye made contact with a lady rushing across the lot tugging a child behind her. For some reason she slowed for just a moment as she passed us, I smiled at her and Soeren greeted them with a cheerful “Frohliche Weihnachten!” The frown she wore on her face dissolved and instead her lips turned upwards into a beaming smile as she and her child wished us the same.

Getting into the car I leaned forward to take one last look as they sauntered into the store. I smiled to myself as I saw her make a stop at the bakery, as others rushed passed cramming their cars with Christmas trees.

No, we do not even have our tree yet! But we are fairly easy about it. You see, Christmas comes every year and instead of going to a store to buy our tree, we go with the forest ranger into the forest, where a tree school grows a variety of trees for Christmas. We select our tree, always a majestic Nordman Fir Christmas tree and cut it down ourselves. The ranger simply puts a net over it and helps us load it in the car. Not only is this method cheaper but we usually get the freshest trees that lasts well into the beginning of January.

We usually do this on the 23rd, as in Germany trees are rarely put up earlier, some will put their trees up on the 4th Advent, but Tom’s family tradition has always been to put the tree up on the Christmas Eve. It’s a tradition we have taken over. The day before Christmas Eve we usually spend in the forest soaking up the crisp cool winter air and the musky aromas of pine, fir and earth. I will often pack a flask of hot chocolate and a small box of homemade cookies. Those islands of serenity are always welcomed.

Christmas cookies - they come in so many varieties and we love our cookies so much here. Each year I begin baking towards the end of November. There are gifts to give, Christmas parties to attend or simply treating ourselves to a moment of tranquility and cookies fit every occasion so perfectly.

Last year I treated you to a nice selection of Hazelnut Maripan Macaroon, Jam Drops with Morello Cherry and Cognac Preserve and German Spitzbuben. This year I invite you to enjoy in a selection of Christmas cookies that are extremely popular at this time of year here in Germany.

Chocolate Brushed Lebkuchen

Christmas Cookies 2011 (0178) by Meeta K. Wolff

Lebkuchen cookies are the German icons when it comes to Christmas baking. Each region in Germany offers their own traditional variety and each one tastes divine. Maybe one of the reasons they are so cherished is because the warming medley of spices in the Lebkuchen spice mix, specifically used for Lebkuchen, emit a comforting and cosy atmosphere as the aromas of cinnamon, cardamom, coriander perfume the air.

In my version I use raw marzipan to give it a lovely nutty taste and you will see that I only use candied lemon peel to add a slight sweet tangy flavor to the cookie.



Recipe: Chocolate Brushed Lebkuchen

Printable version of recipe here

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 200g raw marzipan
  • 200g sugar
  • 50 candied lemon peel, finely chopped
  • 4 free-range egg whites
  • 50g almonds, ground
  • 50g hazelnuts, ground
  • 100g all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon Lebkuchen spice mix (see below)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Pinch baking soda
  • 40 round rice paper approx. 5cm diameter
  • 100g bittersweet chocolate
  • 100g white chocolate

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C. Line two baking trays with baking paper and moisten with some water. Place the rice paper rounds 1 cm apart.
  2. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the egg whites, marzipan, sugar and pinch of salt with an electric whisk to a thick and smooth batter. Fold in the lemon peel.
  3. Mix together the ground almonds, hazelnuts, flour and Lebkuchen spice, then fold into the egg-marzipan batter. Dissolve the baking soda in 1 tablespoon water and mix into the batter.
  4. Fill the lebkuchen batter into a piping bag with a rounded tip and pipe enough batter on the rice paper round, keeping a few millimeters free from the edges as the batter spreads while it bakes.
  5. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, then completely cool the lebkuchen cookies on a rack.
  6. In the meantime melt both chocolates separately over a water bath. Brush the cookies alternatively with white and bittersweet chocolate. Allow the chocolate to dry and set.
  7. Store the lebkuchen cookies in a cookie box between layers of baking paper.

* Note: If you cannot find premixed "Lebkuchen Gewürz" from a German store, you may mix your own. Here are the spices that make up "Lebkuchen Gewürz"

2 T. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground anise seed

Yields 40 cookies

 

 

Christmas Cookies 2011 (0181) by Meeta K. Wolff

Almond and Peanut Florentines

 Christmas Cookies 2011 (0167) by Meeta K. Wolff

Because these sweet caramelized nutty cookies are a favorite of ours all year round they are almost always a part of our Christmas baking. Originally from Italy, Florentine cookies have found great popularity in Germany. Traditonally made with candied cherries, honey and almonds in my version I use homemade candied peel and add some peanuts too. These cookies could not be easier to make.  


Christmas Cookies 2012 Almond and Peanut Florentines (0167) by Meeta K. Wolff
Recipe: Almond and Peanut Florentines

Printable version of recipe here

Prep Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 170g sugar
  • 50g honey
  • 120g butter
  • 140 ml heavy cream
  • 100g candied peel, chopped
  • 50g hazelnuts, ground
  • 100g peanuts
  • 200g almond slivers
  • 40g flour
  • 300g bittersweet chocolate

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. In a saucepan gently simmer sugar, honey, butter and cream over a medium heat for 6-8 minutes.
  3. Mix together the candied peel, peanuts and almonds with the flour in a bowl. Fold into the caramel and simmer for a further 5-6 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Using a spatula spread the caramel-nut mixture evenly in about 10 cm diameter rounds, leaving about 5 cm space between each cookie. You should get about 20 cookies.
  5. Bake in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until cookies are golden in color. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Loosen the cookies with a spatulas.
  6. In the meantime melt the chocolate over a water bath. Once melted dip the bottom of the cookies in the chocolate. Allow to drip on a cookie rack, then place in the fridge for 10 minutes to set
  7. Store the florentine cookies in a cookie box between layers of baking paper. Will keep for about a week.

Yields 20 cookies

 

Hazelnut Gianduia Spritz Cookies

 Christmas Cookies 2011 (0184) by Meeta K. Wolff

Another classic Christmas cookie, Spritz cookies cannot be absent from the German cookie tray! Basically, a type of short crust pastry, the dough of the spritz cookies is piped from a piping bag into the desired shapes and is decadent dipped in chocolate. This year I continued on the path of decadence with my spritz cookies and made a heavenly gianduia chocolate filling to sandwich between two spritz cookies. Why not? It’s Christmas after all.


 Christmas Cookies 2012 Hazelnut Gianduia Spritz Cookies (0184) by Meeta K. Wolff
Recipe: Hazelnut Gianduia Spritz Cookies

Printable version of recipe here

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 80g hazelnuts, chopped
  • 70g icing sugar, sieved
  • 125g butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons Cognac
  • 150g all-purpose flour, sieved
  • 80g cornstarch, sieved
  • 150g gianduia
  • 100g bittersweet chocolate
  • 50g heavy cream

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
  2. In a skillet gently toast the hazelnuts until golden, then place them in a food processor and process until finely ground. Allow to cool.
  3. Using an electric whisk, whisk icing sugar, butter and salt until tick and creamy – approx. 10 minutes. Add the Cognac, egg and egg yolk and continue to whisk until well incorporated.
  4. With a spatula fold in the flour, cornstarch and ground hazelnuts into the batter, making sure to scrap the bottom of the bowl. Place the batter in the fridge for 15 minutes, then transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle.
  5. Pipe approx 30-35 small circular shaped cookies onto the prepared baking trays and refrigerate for 1 hour. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes until the cookies are a light golden color. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  6. In the meantime melt together the gianduia and 50g chocolate over a water bath. In a saucepan bring the cream to just below boiling point then pour over the gianduia-chocolate, mixing with a spatula to a creamy mixture. Refrigerate for 45 minutes, then transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle.
  7. Turn over half of the spritz cookies and pipe small amounts of the gianduia-chocolate filling on each. Place the other half on top and gently press.
  8. Melt the remaining 50g of chocolate in a water bath. Dip the sandwiched cookies into the chocolate and allow to drip on a wire rack.
  9. Store the spritz cookies in a cookie box between layers of baking paper. Will keep for about 10 days.

Yields 15-20 cookies

 


Verdict

Christmas Cookies 2011 (0163) by Meeta K. Wolff 

You’ll be finding yourself caught with your hand in the cookie jar quite often with these varieties of cookies.  Spicy, sweet, nutty and decadent all the specifications for a good Christmas cookie! For more Christmas cookie ideas I have the cookie jar filled with crispy Almond and Pink Praline Spekulatius, Cinnamon Stars, Marzipan Almond Kipferl, and Lebkuchen Spice Macarons with Quince Jam and Candied Ginger. I am sure you will find the right cookie for your island of tranquility this Christmas.

I’d like to wish everyone celebrating a very fond Merry Christmas. Hope you enjoy this time with your family and loved ones. Eat, drink, love and be merry capaciously!  And remember a cookie helps take away that stress … in most situations.

Hugs!


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2011 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

34 comments :

  1. Merry Christmas Meeta!! We have not had a tree in years, maybe some day... I love your traditions - what better way to start the holidays than outside enjoying nature? And of course the cookies look wonderful :)

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  2. Looks like you have bakes a hoad of delicious cookies, I love tha tyou keep the tradition from Tom's place about teh christmas tree, here we put our tree up after sinterklass feest, but this year we are doing a tree.
    Happy Christmas and a very Happy Newyear to you ,Tom and Soreen.

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  3. those are fabulous and so festive looking! I'm sure I'd love all three recipes as those are some of my favorite cookies. Yours look so tempting and 1000x better than any that you can buy.

    Merry Christmas,

    Rosa

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  4. Beautiful cookies Meeta, you have been busy! Wishing you, Tom and Soren a wonderful and blessed Christmas and all the best for 2012. Have a good one Hugs from me to you xx

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  5. I cannot believe the beauty of your photographs, and these leave me gasping. I have made Christmas cookies too, but compared to yours, they look like fodder! Thanks for the inspiration
    Catherine

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  6. Oh, Meeta, I am weeping at how gorgeous these photos are! Perfectt cookies, festive setting, just stunning. I want all of it! Wishing you and your men a splendid, happy and abundant Christmas holiday!

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  7. merry christmas to you & family meeta ! i love the part where you take hot chocolate & cookies to the forest. very interesting display of cookies you posted..

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  8. Meeta,

    These cookies looks so yummy! I love the vibrant pictures that look so real enough to eat!

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  9. Meeta, I really wish I found abox of these at my doorsteps. happy Holidays. This post & treats are just deliciously beautiful!

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  10. What you say is so true! If you believe some people it is like they think Christmas has snuck up on them and caught them unawares. We had most of our shopping sorted months ago, apart from a few bits and pieces, so it's been quite stress free for us. In fact, the other day my fiance and I were at the post office sending off some of our Christmas gifts when the woman behind the counter remarked how it was strange at the moment to see people happy and smiling, as we were. It's so sad that a day of joy gets so many people so stressed out.

    Your cookies look absolutely delectable, and enough to bring a smile to the most frazzled persons face as they relax with one of these. I especially love the look of the spritz cookies and the Lebkuchen. I've bookmarked your Lebkuchen recipe to try as my fiance is from a German background and I want to learn more about traditional German foods.

    Merry Christmas Meeta!! I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday.

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  11. Lovely holiday cookies which evoke the season of delight and wonder. I very much enjoyed the ethereal and peaceful mood conveyed through your delightful photos.

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  12. Wow your cookies look so delicious!
    I'm such a spice lover but my sisters had enough of my spice cookies and cakes! I'm dying try yours!

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  13. Such gorgeous cookies! I think I put on a pound or two just looking at these ;)

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  14. Beautiful Meeta, I have a serious cookie craving now!!

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  15. Such awesome cookies, I love that bag with the hazelnut cookies. Merry Christmas to you all!

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  16. hi Meeta, that link to last year's cookies is broken. Funnily, I was looking for your last year's recipes as Im a first time baker and want to find something easy to bake and share with neighbors.

    this year's cookies look great, but Im a bit intimidated .. hee hee.

    thanks,
    Archana

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  17. Again this "we are a lot better than everyone else". :((( True Christmas spirit.

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  18. I'm all "cookie-ed" out Meeta...but who can say no to these beauties? Just beautiful! Enjoy the festive season and all the best for the new year!

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  19. What an amazing assortment of cookies! Wish I could have a taste of them all. And you know I'm fairly convinced that time speeds up between Thanksgiving and Christmas. ;-) Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas.

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  20. Your posts always take the stress away my lovely girl...always so fulfilling, delicious and beautiful! What an amazing selection of cookies a difficult choice to pick one. Merry Christmas my sweet friend! Hugs!!

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  21. Darling, the top photo is possibly one of the most beautiful things I've seen all year - it's given me an absolute craving for German biscuits! Gorgeous stuff.

    Happy Christmas - hope you've been having a wonderful weekend with your family! Let's have that Skype sesh soon =)

    Jax x

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  22. Belated Christmas greetings Meeta and best wishes for the New Year! I loved this post so much as it reflects how I feel about the hectic Christmas season as well. Islands of tranquility -- you are so right, these are very important -- sit and enjoy the season, not rush around as if you are "stung by a hornet". What an absolutely lovely tradition you have with the Christmas tree! Do you know that over here Christmas season begins in September and that trees are usually up by November? I know right! I'll take these cookies and a walk in the woods any day :) Hugs!!

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  23. Your cookies are beautiful! Thanks for the great post.

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  24. Look at all these cookies!! Why did I not stop by here before christmas. Who am I kidding. I am definitely still going to try these. Yum!

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  25. Your cookies look delicious. Thank you for the recipe.

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  26. What an array of wonderful cookies. Wishing you a very Happy New Year dear Meeta.

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  27. Aren't these cookies to die for? Haha! Now I have to get rid of them as they have made themselves comfortable around the hips! Hope you all had a great Xmas! Thanks for all you comments and thoughts!

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  28. What a great variety of xmas cookies! Wish I'd seen this before the holidays, especially as I've been looking for a good Lebkuchen recipe to match my childhood memories. Will definitely be keeping these recipes on file for the future. Happy New Year!

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  29. Hi Meeta,

    just one question: do you mean "Speisestärke" or really "Maisstärke" by writing corn starch? I was wondering because I usually use starch flour for baking cookies. Christmas time might be over but your cookies look too great. I need to try them!

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  30. Hi Tadaima,

    I used "Speisestärke" for these cookies. let me know how you like them and thanks for commenting!

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  31. I have really enjoyed my visit here! It is a paradise; a feast for the eyes! Ich bin sehr froh! Weimar ist unglaublich wunderbar, Ich bin dort gewesen als Ich junge war und Ich hoffe, dass mein Deutsch noch ein bisschen gut ist. Diese Kekse sind wie eine Meisterwerk. Ich komme hier zurueck sehr oft, um viel Spass zu haben! Tschuess Mony

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  32. this would really make good gifts. thanks for the recipe! :)

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  33. Everything looks delicious,beautiful blog!

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

Hugs
Meeta