Lebkuchen – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #58

Lebkuchen is a spicy German cookie synonymous with Christmas. Soft in the centre and slightly crunchy on the edges, fragrant with spices and sticky molasses. What this cookies lack in looks it makes up for in flavour and like all good things, improves with age!

Lebkuchen adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses
115g/ 1 stick salted butter
30mls/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup castor sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 1/4 cup plain flour, sifted
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 teaspoons cocoa powder
pinch salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

 

Icing

1 cup icing sugar
15g/1 tablespoon butter, at room temp
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons water

 

Method

  1. To make the dough stir together in a bowl the buttermilk and soda. It will become bubbly and thick.
  2. Add the honey and molasses and stir to combine. In a bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter until smooth, add the oil, sugar and vanilla.
  3. Beat for 3 -4 minutes until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the egg, followed by the molasses and honey mixture. It will look curdled but that’s ok.
  5. Stir in the remaining ingredients. The dough will be thick and slightly wet. At this point it’s a good idea to wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or even a few days to allow the flavours to mature.
    When ready to bake, heat the oven to 180C/350F.
  6. Line baking trays with baking paper.
  7. Use baking paper dusted with flour to roll out the dough. It will be sticky so be liberal with the flour.
  8. Roll the dough to about 1 cm/1/3inch thick.
  9. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters or simply squares with a knife.
  10. Arrange on prepared baking trays allow a little room for spreading.
  11. Bake for 12-13 minutes. Don’t overbake.
    Make the icing as soon as the trays go into the oven, by beating all the ingredients together until a smooth consistency.
  12. Once the cookies are out of the oven and still warm, paint with the icing.
  13. Leave as is or embellish as desired.
  14. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

 

Krumkake – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #57

This week as we race towards Christmas day I find that I’m baking lots of recipes from this wonderful cookbook by Greg Patent. In Montana where Greg lives, the snow is softly falling and the vista is picture perfect. Quite unlike the view outside my window here in North Queensland.  Summer is in full swing with the heat and humidity being quite oppressive. Much of the traditional Christmas foods, designed to warm your guests who have come in from the cold, really don’t suit our climate.

But this crisp, fragrant cookie is perfect in both it’s home in Norway or here in sunny North Queensland or anywhere for that matter. These cookies taste exactly as I had expected – buttery and with a wonderful flavour of vanilla. Eat them as is or fill them with cream, fruit and jam. Traditionally baked on a krumkake iron, I successfully used my pizzelle iron – the pattern is different but the effect is similar. Krumkake are rolled into a cone with a special wooden tool. I used cream horn moulds or you could simply roll around the handle of a wooden spoon.

Krumkake – A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent

3 large eggs
3/4 cup castor sugar
1 cup plain flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
150g/1 1/3 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled to tepid

In a stand mixer, beat eggs on high speed until pale and thick. Gradually add the sugar while beating slowly. Increase the speed and beat for 3-4 minutes until thick and pale.
On low speed, mix in the flour, salt and vanilla. Then with a rubber spatula fold in the butter. The mixture will be quite thick. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

When ready, heat your iron (pizzelle or krumkake). This batter was perfect to drop from a spoon – not to thick or thin. If needed, adjust the batter with a little flour or warm water. Use a teaspoon of batter to make each krumkake. Cook until just golden – which only takes about 10-12 seconds. Remove carefully onto a clean teatowel (to protect your hands). Use whatever device you have chosen to roll your krumkake. Work quickly rolling the cookie around the mould. Once it has cooled and become crisp slide it off the mould. Store in an airtight container. They will stay fresh for 2 weeks.

Chinese Almond Cookies – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #51

It’s been a while that I have notice some different products lining the supermarket shelves. I mean, all the coconut things….sugar, oil and flour. And then in the health food section… chai, cacao nibs and cacao powder. And then off to the tetra pack milks…well, that’s another post! Baking has defiantly taken on a whole new spectrum.

 I saw a post recently on facebook from a friend of mine who photographed her grandchildren “enjoying Acai bowls for morning tea”. Really? Apparently the kids love them. Who knew? What happened to a biscuit and milk for morning tea? I really must be living under a rock.

I wonder if  in 50 years time they’ll be talking about the strange trends back in the early part of the century or if baking will completely change and traditional baking will be for the historians.

These cookies are a traditional Chinese cookie though the Chinese restaurants in my area never served anything like this. The wonderful thing about traditional baking is that it simply took basic ingredients of flour, eggs, butter and sugar and mixed them with local ingredients and a unique recipe was created. And while these cookies look awfully (or should I say, “suspiciously”)like the Syrupy  Almond Cookies in a recent post they are quite a different thing all together.

Now it’s time for the trendy bakers to look away…the original recipe called for 100% lard. Eeek! Ok, so I substituted butter for most of the lard. But do put the lard in (or if you are brave, use all lard)…the texture is amazing!

Dare I say… Long Live Traditional Baking!

Chinese Almond Cookies – adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent
Makes 36

2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
180g butter, slightly softened
70g lard, cold
1 cup castor (fine) sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons almond extract
36 whole almonds
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 180C/350F and line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt
Beat the butter and lard together until smooth and well combined. Add the sugar and beat well until creamy. Beat in the egg and almond extract. Gradually mix in the flour mixture until well combined. The dough should be soft but not sticky.
Turn the dough out and divide into 3 equal portions. Roll into logs 30cm/12inches long. Cut each log into 12 pieces, 2.5cm /1inch long. You should have 36 equal portions. Failing all of that just pinch off pieces of dough to make 36 cookies. Roll dough into balls and position on baking trays. Flatten each slightly and press an almond into the centre of each cookie.

Brush with egg wash and bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until golden in colour.

Remove from trays and cool on wire racks.

Store in an airtight container.  Apparently the cookies will last for 1 or 2 weeks but they didn’t make it that long in our house!

Syrupy Almond Cookies – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #50

Is your bake ware shiny and new? Or do you have old pieces that have been with you or your family for years? Can you imagine if bake ware could talk and tell it’s story and what it has seen. It’s sad to see beautiful baking tins, old spoons or crockery abandoned at the local op shop. These were once treasured pieces that were used over and over, now no longer of use to the new owners who may not bake or cook or maybe simple can’t fit anymore inherited pieces into their cupboards. So different to days gone by when the woman of the house “made do” with only a couple of pieces to bake, roast and cook.
I am guilty as charged of having waaaay to much “stuff” but can’t resist a new  preloved piece of bake ware. “It’s useful” I convince myself. Time to declutter. But then I drag out an old baking tray and I love the way it looks full of syrupy cookies.
This recipe comes from my friend, Greg Patent and his great cook book A Baker’s Odyssey. I know you will enjoy it.

Syrupy Almond Cookies ( A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent)

Syrup
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Dough
1 3/4 cup plain flour plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
113g/4oz butter, unsalted
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons yoghurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
16 whole almonds

Make the syrup by combining sugar, water, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to cool and then refrigerate until very cold.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a bowl beat butter until smooth and creamy. I used a stand mixer but beating with a wooden spoon is fine. Beat in the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and egg yolk followed by the yoghurt and vanilla. If the mixture looks curdled that’s not a problem. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients.
Divide the dough into 16 equal portions.

Roll into balls and arrange on baking trays. Flatten slightly and press an almond into the centre. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.

As soon as they come out of the oven transfer the cookies baking dish with high sides to catch the syrup. Immediately pour the cold syrup onto the hot cookies.  After 5 minutes turn the cookies over and then again a few more times. I never got all the syrup to absorb into the cookies but maybe the cookies were a little overbaked.

Store the cookies in a sealed container in the refrigerator and they will continue to absorb the syrup and develop flavour. Enjoy with a strong espresso!

Swedish Jam Strips – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #47

Homemade jam drops were synonymous with school lunches when I was growing up. Everyone’s mum made them. Those were the days when lunch boxes were packed with sandwiches, homemade cake or biscuits and a piece of fruit. Peer into a lunch box today and you’ll find it’s a little different. It annoys me to see the variety of prepackaged food available specifically for school lunch boxes and a lot of it has little nutritional value. In fact a lot of it is down right rubbish! What a shame today’s society has little time for homemade cakes and biscuits. Baking is now almost considered an art! What would our grandmother’s say?
I would think this is a Swedish version of the Australian jam drops especially as a finger or the end of a wooden spoon is used to make the indentation.
Swedish Almond Jam Strips from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent
3/4 cup ground almonds
220g butter
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons castor (superfine)sugar
pinch salt
1 2/3 cup allpurpose plain flour
3/4 – 1 cup seedless raspberry jam
Glaze
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons boiling water
Prepheat oven to 180C/350F and line a couple of baking trays with non stick paper.
In a stand mixer beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and salt and beat until fluffy. Scrape the bowl and add in the almonds. Gradually mix in the flour. Beat until just combined. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a thick disc. Divide into 4. Roll each into a log about 30cm long by 2 or 3cm thick. Place on prepared tray. Leaving the ends of the log intact make a shallow depression the length of each log with your finger or the end of a wooden spoon. Fill the depression with jam taking care not to overfill. Bake for 25 minutes. As soon as the strips come out of the oven prepare the glaze by mixing all the ingredients together until smooth adding a little more water if necessary. With a teaspoon drizzle the glaze over the jam. Cool the strips for 5 minutes then transfer to cutting board and cut strips at an angle. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Savoury ring cookies – Kahk from A Baker’s Odyssey challenge #46

Back in 2011 I baked Greg Patent’s Granny’s Kahk. Since then I have regularly baked that delicious savoury biscuit so I thought it was about time I tried the yeasted version in A Baker’s Odyssey. Flavoured with sesame, anise and nigella seeds these are also a treat. Great with cheese, olives and drinks. Really these remind me of the Italian taralli. Have you tried taralli? Or have you tried kahk?

Savoury Ring cookies from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent
Makes 36

1 7g packet active dry yeast
1 teaspoon mahlab seeds, ground
1/4 cup warm water
60g butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cups all purpose plain flour
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon anise seeds
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl mix together yeast, mahlab seeds and warm water. Set aside for 10 minutes, the yeast will start to bubble. In a saucepan melt the butter. Remove from heat then add the extra water.
In a large bowl mix together the flour, seeds and salt. Make a well in the centre and stir in the yeast mixture and butter and water mixture. I found the mixture was very dry at this stage and needed to add a little more water to bring the mixture together. Knead the mixture on a work surface for a few minutes. Lightly oil the bowl and place the ball of dough in the bowl turning a couple of times to coat with a little oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F and line a couple of baking trays with non stick paper.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 30 even pieces. Allow the dough to rest again for 10 minutes. Working with one piece of dough at a time roll each piece of dough into a 12cm/5in long rope. Shape into a circle overlapping the evens to secure. Place on prepared baking trays and bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Delicious Greek Kourabiedes from A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #45

I think right about now my daughter will be tucking into a couple of these with a Greek coffee in hand, gazing out over the azure ocean in Santorini. That’s right, I bake them in my humble kitchen in Northern Australia and she samples the real thing in it’s natural surrounds. I know she will have a wonderful time in Greece and as her mother’s daughter, will enjoy all the delicious food on offer.

I baked these buttery crisp delicacies for a biscuit platter. I love anything dusted with icing sugar!

Kourabiedes adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent

1/2 cup unblanched whole almonds, toasted
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup castor (superfine) sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
icing sugar to coat

Chop the almonds into very small pieces with a sharp knife or pulsed in a food processor until chopped but not ground.

With a wooden spoon beat the butter in a large bowl. Add the sugar, beat well then beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Stir in the almonds. Sift in the flour and baking powder. Stir to combine. When the dough comes together form into a square and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 180C/350F and line a couple of baking trays with non stick paper. Divide the dough into 36 even pieces. Roll each piece into a ball then shape into a crescent about 7cm x 1.5cm (3in x 1/2in). Place on prepared baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes. Check them early because they brown very quickly. Cool on a wire rack. Coat with icing sugar when cool.

Italian Anise-Orange Cookies – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #44

Colourful sprinkles attract children like bees to honey.
 I had made these cookies for the biscuit platter for a family gathering. I added a little liqueur in the icing instead of the orange juice asked for in the original recipe not thinking how attractive these cookies look to children. Well, these cookies were so popular among the children, I felt guilty and kept quiet about the unseen liqueur. 
Bet the children slept well that night!
This is another recipe in the quest to bake through A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent

Italian Anise-Orange Cookies  adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent
Makes 36 cookies

Dough
2 1/2 cups all purpose plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup castor (superfine) sugar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup whole mile
finely grated zest 1 orange
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground anise seeds

Icing
1 cup sifted icing sugar
1 tablespoon soft butter
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice/liquer of choice
5 to 6 teaspoons water

Coloured sprinkles

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of the stand mixer beat with the whisk attachment the eggs until frothy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar and beat until the mixture is thick and pale, about 2 or 3 minutes. Continue beating and gradually add the oil. Then on low speed add the milk, zest, juice and ground anise. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and add the flour in two additions mixing with a wooden spoon. It may be too sticky so add a couple more spoonfuls of flour if needed. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and line a couple of baking trays with non stick paper. Roll teaspoonfuls of the dough into balls and place on the prepare baking tray. You should have about 36 cookies.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the tops have cracked and are lightly browned.

Make the icing by mixing all the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Dip the tops of the cookies into the icing and place upright on a wire rack. Sprinkle immediately with coloured sprinkles. Allow to set.

Pfeffernüsse Cookies – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #43

How many cookbooks do you own? Can you count them? Do you want to? I don’t even want to count the amount of cookbooks I own. I am mad for cookbooks! I can’t resist them! I am probably a cookbook addict, I would say. As much as I love to buy, read and own cookbooks, I rarely cook more than 10 recipes in each. A few year ago I came across A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent. A book showcasing “recipes from America’s rich immigrant heritage”. The recipes within the pages of this book intrigued me so much so that I wanted to bake every single one. And with that thought I started my own personal challenge to bake my way through the book. This is recipe number 43. Pretty good for a cook who barely gets through 10 recipes in any one cookbook. Admittedly it’s taken some time but in the next few months I hope to change that.
This time one of my favourite recipes in the book, Pfeffernüsse, a deliciously spicy sweet recipe from Germany.

Pfeffernüsse adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent

1/2 cup castor (superfine) sugar
1/2 cup honey
125g unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoon ground anise seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 3/4 cups plain all purpose flour
1/2 finely chopped almonds

Glaze
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup water

Prepare the dough a few hours ahead or even overnight
Put the sugar, honey and butter into a saucepan and heat gently until the butter in melted and the mixture is smooth. Allow to cool until tepid. Whisk in the egg and add the anise, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, coriander, cardamom, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir in with the whisk. Mix the flour and almonds in with a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F. Line two baking pans with baking paper. Shape the chilled dough into a 20cm by 10cm (8in x 4in) rectangle and cut into 32 pieces. ( I love this method of portioning the dough!). Roll each square into a ball and place on the baking trays leaving room between each for spreading. Put about 16 biscuits on each tray.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until cracks appear on top. Allow to cool slightly then complete cooling on racks.

Set the racks over a tray or baking paper to catch the glaze the will drip off the biscuits.Make the glaze by mixing the icing sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat until boiling. Stir occasionally. Remove from the heat and brush the biscuits with the glaze immediately. Allow the glaze to set

Roll in icing sugar or dust with icing sugar as I have done.

Scottish Shortbread – A Baker’s Odyssey Challenge #42

I can never resist a good homemade biscuit. The Australian biscuit and the American cookie are almost one and the same. I have been lead to believe that the American cookie is maybe a little softer than the crunchy Australian biscuit but I may be wrong there. 
I recently baked a variety of biscuits from Greg Patent’s A Baker’s Odyssey which showcases a wide range from many countries around the world. On the platter there were Scottish shortbread, Italian Anise-Orange Cookies, German Pfeffernüsse, and Greek Kourabiedes.
Even though I know baking is a science and a recipe should be followed to the letter, I never seem to manage that. Either I can’t quite get the correct ingredient or something may not be totally to my taste so I am always evolving recipes and changing to suit my mood on the day. I’m breaking the rules, I know! I decided to roll the dough to the minimum of 6mm asked for in the recipe but that meant a large rectangle resulting in huge shortbread. I don’t think anyone minded! They are delicious and buttery and one small shortbread would never have been enough.
Greg recently baked the exact recipe over at his blog The Baking Wizard. Yep, they look pretty perfect. The key is not to over bake. But with this recipe, whatever way you make them they will be devoured in moments!

Scottish Shortbread adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent

250g salted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup castor (superfine) sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups plain all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 160C/325F. Line a baking tray with non stick baking paper.

In a stand mixer (or with a handheld mixer or simply with a wooden spoon) beat the softened butter until smooth and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat well until light and smooth. Beat in the vanilla then stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time until fully mixed in. The dough with come together in a mass. Don’t over beat. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly.
To roll the shortbread out, dust the work surface with flour and roll the dough into a rectangle about 30cm x 23cm (or about 12in x 9in). Square up the edges with your fingers. Cut into 18 pieces (cut the dough into 3 lengthwise and cut each strip into 6 pieces. These are big shortbread!
Prick each biscuit with a fork 3 times. Arrange on prepared baking trays.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking trays for 5 minutes before removing to rack to cool.