Recipes go back to the Middle Ages down to the 12th century when the spice trade was flourishing. Guilds were formed and no one not belonging was allowed to bake any Pfefferkuchen! Luckily we do not have these restrictions anymore and we have the choice of hundreds of well tested recipes!
My recipe today is not that ancient but just over a hundred years old. It is also fairly easy to prepare, considering that we now have blenders and mixers and food processors, items our grandmothers had to substitute with elbow grease!
What you need:
2 baking sheets, buttered and dusted with flour
Cooling racks, 2
Hand mixer with whisks and kneading hooks
Ingredients for the dough:
250 g granulated sugar (or a little less if you don't want it so sweet)
2 tsp Lebkuchen spice
60 g candied orange peel, finely chopped
zest of a fresh lemon
375 g plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
Sift flour and baking powder together in a bowl and keep aside. In a fairly large bowl whisk sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. add all the spices and mix in at low speed. Change whisks to kneading hooks and gradually incorporate the flour. On slow speed so you would not spread flour dust everywhere! When all flour ha been added increase speed and continue kneading for about 5 minutes until well combined. At this stage the dough is very sticky and impossible to work with. So wrap it in clingfilm and keep in the fridge for a few hours. Overnight is even better.
Preheat oven to gas 4 (180 C), placing the shelf just above centre. Flour your work surface and rolling pin. Roll out dough to almost finger thickness (one of the many quaint measurements), a generous 1 centimetre is fine. Using cutters of your choice cut out as many cookies as you can, re-rolling any leftover dough. Place on prepared baking sheets and bake for 10 - 15 minutes. Mine took 12 minutes! At 10 minutes they were not quite done and at 15 minutes they had become too crisp.
I think every oven is different, so it is advisable to bake a trial piece first in order not to ruin the lot! When done place on cooling racks and then prepare the icing.
For the icing you will need:
200 g icing sugar
1 egg white large
a very few drops of lemon or almond essence
Sift icing sugar into a bowl. In another bowl lightly whisk the egg white then gradually add the icing sugar on low speed and your chosen flavouring. Whisk until smooth and thick. Immediately brush the icing over the cookies and allow to set and harden before storing in airtight tins.
This recipe yields about 40 cookies.