Saturday, December 5, 2009
Lebkuchen Bars, Speculaas and SinterKlaas - Pink Saturday
December 6th is a special day for the children of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. It marks the feast of Sinterklaas, or St. Nicolas, a man remembered for his generosity and love for children and the poor. On the eve of his feast day, the shoes of children are set out for him to fill with candy and other small gifts. Legend has it that Sinterklaas carries with him a book of sins. The shoes of those who have been good are filled with treats, while those of transgressors are filled with twigs. Special cookies are usually served as part of this celebration. They are called speculaas. There are actually two types of this spice cookie. One is soft and chewy, the other is crisp and formed in special embossed molds. Both taste like mild gingerbread. I couldn't let the feast of Sinterklaas pass without making speculaas. I've chosen to make the softer version. The word speculaas comes from the Latin word for mirror. The cookies can be rolled and cut to mirror any shape and that probably explains their name. Speculaas, and their cousins lebkuchen, are wonderful holiday treats and it really is lovely to have them on hand for guests and special Christmas activities.
One of my earliest holiday memories is decorating the Christmas tree. Most of the work fell to my father, but when he deemed the tree ready each child, there were three of us, would be given a box of tinsel and allowed to put it on the tree. Even with extended arms, we never made it higher than four feet up the tree. The bulk of the tinsel was on the lower limbs, probably in clumps, because we were anxious to complete the job. The one who finished first got to put the angel on top the Christmas tree and we, even at that tender age, were a competitive bunch. There were of course cookies and eggnog to heal the wounded spirits of those not qualifying for the special honor. I hope you've had the opportunity to try really good lebkuchen and speculaas. If not, I hope you'll try these recipes. These cookies age well if stored in airtight containers.
Speculaas...from One Perfect Bite courtesy of Joy of Baking
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour/meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
Finely grated rind of 1 large lemon
1 cup sliced or shaved almonds
1) Whisk flour, almond meal, baking powder, spices and salt together in a bowl. Set aside. Set aside.
2) Combine butter and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer. Cream until light and fluffy. Add egg and lemon zest and beat until well combined. Add flour mixture and beat until combined. Form dough into a round, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
3) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Move rack to middle of oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
4) Remove dough from refrigerator and form into 1 inch (2.54 cm) balls. Place balls of dough on the prepared cookie sheet, spacing about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Then, using bottom of a glass dipped in sugar, flatten each ball of dough to 1/4 inch thick (can also use a cookie stamp). Sprinkle each cookie with shaved almonds. Bake for about 10 - 12 minutes, or until lightly browned at edges. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: 3-1/2 dozen cookies.
Lebkuchen Bars...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite Courtesy of Tish Boyle
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons butter, cut into 3 pieces
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup sliced unblanched almonds
1/3 cup candied orange peel, finely chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon fresh grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1) In a large nonreactive saucepan, combine honey, brown sugar, granulated sugar and butter. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved, butter is melted and mixture just begins to boil. Remove pan from heat; let cool for 15 minutes.
2) Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and ginger together in a large bowl. Set aside.
3) Stir almonds, candied orange peel, egg, orange juice, orange zest and vanilla and almond extracts into cooled honey mixture. Add dry ingredients and stir until well-blended. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface of dough. Cover pan with another piece of plastic wrap. Let dough sit at room temperature overnight.
4) Position a rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch square baking pan.
5) Place dough in prepared pan and spread it in an even layer. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
6) Meanwhile, make glaze: Whisk confectioners' sugar, orange juice, ginger and vanilla together in a small bowl until smooth. Set aside.
7) Remove bars from oven. Place on a wire rack. Spread the glaze over warm bars. Let cool completely before cutting. When cool cut into bars. Yield: 24 bars.
This post is being linked to:
Pink Saturday, sponsored by Beverly at How Sweet the Sound