The last couple days have been tough and I needed to find some way to calm my mind. Since sitting quietly is challenging for me, I went into the kitchen. Cooking is my version of meditation— it engages my hands and mind enough to leave space for the small quiet voice I often forget to listen to. I wanted to bake cookies— it seemed like the perfect way to love my kids and make the house smell like home. I realize it's kind of a Pollyanna way to try to make sense of a completely senseless tragedy but as I was dropping those cookies onto the sheet tray, I sent prayers of healing and protection to the families in Connecticut and for all of us. Cookies won't change the world but it's what came to mind on a rainy afternoon in December.
Since baking is problematic for me, I tend to stick to cookies that don't require a rolling-pin and aren't too sticky. These lebkuchens fit one of my criteria (they don't need to be rolled out) but are super sticky. I didn't believe the dough really needed to be frozen for 4 hours, I thought 2 hours on a cold porch would be sufficient. Wrong. Definitely put the dough in the freezer, it's going to make the experience so much more pleasant for you, trust me. Otherwise, these cookies rock. They're crunchy, chewy, sweet and spicy all wrapped up in one round-ish cookie package. I'm trying to build a repertoire of Christmas cookies I can manage and these lebkuchens are at the top of the list.
Lebkuchen(From Food And Wine Magazine)
1 1/2 cups blanched whole almonds
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon fine salt
inch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup sweet orange marmalade
1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger (1 ounce)
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
5 large eggs
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, until fragrant and lightly golden. Let cool completely. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, cloves, allspice, salt and nutmeg.
In a food processor, pulse the cooled almonds until coarsely chopped. Add the brown sugar and pulse until incorporated. Add the marmalade, candied ginger and molasses and pulse until the mixture is well blended and the nuts are finely chopped. Add the eggs all at once and pulse until just incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and pulse until incorporated and the batter is uniform in color. Scrape the soft batter into a bowl, cover and freeze until very firm, at least 4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a 2-tablespoon ice cream scoop, scoop 8 level mounds onto each baking sheet, about 3 inches apart. Freeze the remaining batter between batches. Bake the cookies in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for about 20 minutes, until risen and slightly firm; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Transfer the sheets to racks and let the cookies and pans cool completely. Repeat with the remaining batter.
In a bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar with the milk and butter. Spread the cookies with icing and let dry completely before serving or wrapping.