28 December 2009

A little break and some delicious cookies for the Holiday

This year, for Christmas, I decided to offer handmade "bredele" ( also called "Winachtsbredele"). They are biscuits traditionally baked in Alsace during the Advent period. I think this tradition is really nice, and although I'm not at all from Alsace, in my mind, Christmas has always been related to the Eastern parts of France and Germany... When I went to Cologne, I bought some mix spices for Lebkuchen ( traditional German Christmas cakes similar to gingerbread or pain d'epices) so I included some Lebkuchen to my selection.
There were many different recipes on the internet; I chose one from Cakes in the city that seemed lighter and quite easy to make.
All the other recipes came from lovely blog Beau a la louche, written by a young Strasbourg based student.
Warning!!! Making 5 bredele recipes in one day is really a maximum, it took me the whole day and even the evening before. Patience is needed as it takes quite a while to shape each cookie one by one. But the result is worth it! And after all, it's only once a year...


A speciality from Nuremberg

Pour la recette en Français, voir ici.

For 30 Lebkuchen
4 eggs
250g brown sugar
70 g chopped candied orange peel + 70 g chopped candied lemon peel
90 g roughly chopped blanched almonds + 90 g ground almond
4 teaspoon of spice mix (cinnamon, anise, ginger, nutmeg, cloves)
300 g flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
blanched almonds for decoration
For the icing: 200g icing sugar
4 or 5 tablespoon water

In a first bowl, beat and blanch the mixture of sugar and eggs. Add the orange and lemon, chopped almonds, almond powder and spices.
In another bowl, sift flour and baking soda, and then add gradually to the first batter. When the device is uniform, let stand for 5 hours.
Cut a sheet of baking sheet and generously butter it. Alternatively, sprinkle flour. The dough is very sticky and would otherwise stick to the tray. Lay the dough on working space onto a 1 cm/2 cm layer. Cut cookies with cookie cutter and place them on the baking sheet, leaving enough space in between.
Decorate with blanched almonds.
Let dry overnight. If you don’t have a big kitchen or so many baking trays, you can leave the dough to rest and then cut the cookies just before cooking.

The next day, preheat oven to 160 ° C.
Bake for 12 minutes to 15 minutes, depending of your oven. The cookies must be barely brown. Overcooked, they would lose their softness.
Let them cool a few minutes before removing them from baking paper.
Prepare icing by mixing icing sugar with water in a small bowl. It must be liquid enough to be applied by brush on the gingerbread. Let dry a few minutes before adding a second layer of icing.

You will get a very soft and fragrant gingerbread with a crunchy layer of icing.

After trying this recipe, I think that it would have been better to use smaller shapes as it took them a while to bake, and also do not put too much spice as they are already quite strong...


A speciality from Basel, Switzerland.

Pour la recette en Français, voir ici.

For 70 pieces:
500g ground almond
350g caster sugar
125g grated chocolate
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2g of ground cloves or allspice
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 egg whites
brown sugar

Combine almonds, sugar, chocolate, flour, spices and lemon juice in a bowl.
Beat the egg whites not too firm, and then incorporate in four times the powder mixture using a rubber spatula. Form a ball of smooth dough.
Sprinkle the work plan of brown sugar, roll out dough to 1 cm thick layer. Cut dough with cookie cutter or knife (I used a cute flower cookie cutter) and place the biscuits on a tray covered with baking paper. Sprinkle brown sugar on cookies (so both sides are covered with sugar). Careful, the dough is VERY sticky, you might need to sprinkle flour on your work plan and on your hands. Let it rest for 3 hours.
Preheat oven to 230 ° C, bake cookies five minutes: they should remain soft inside. Depending of the oven, they might need to bake for longer (mine took a good 10 min to bake).
Let cookies cool on the baking tray before placing them on a grid.


Pour la recette en Français, voir ici.

For 40 pieces:
200g ground hazelnut
200g ground almond
300g sugar
3 egg white
icing sugar

Mix all ingredients (except sugar) until forming a ball shaped dough, wrap it in plastic film and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, share the dough into four equal balls, then shape them in smaller cylinders of 2-3 inches in diameter and cut slices 1.5 cm long: roll each piece between palms to form balls about the size of walnuts, roll the dough balls in icing sugar and place on oven tray covered with greaseproof baking sheet, leave some space between each cake as they spread while baking.
Preheat oven to 200 ° C and bake the macaroons for 8 to 10 minutes: the macarons top will crack and should not brown much. Let the macarons cool slightly before placing them on a grid.
Cooking is tricky: If your macarons are not soft on the inside then they are overcooked, you must also remember to adjust cooking time depending on the size given to your macarons.


Pour la recette en Français, voir ici.

For a hundred pieces:
400g flour
150g sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
200g ground almond
400g butter

For soft coating:
100g caster sugar
100g golden sugar
A little vanilla powder (optional)

Mix in a large bowl the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, ground almond) and then add the butter, diced and soft, mix until a dough that can be knead to agglomerate into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, put in the fridge for an hour (or overnight if that suits you).
Take bits of dough, form the pieces into small rolls with pointy tapering ends; shape them into moon crescents and place on baking sheet.
Preheat oven to 180 ° C, cook 15 to 20 minutes. The biscuits are extremely brittle when removed from the oven, do not touch them, and let them cool.
Once cool, dredge the crescents in vanilla sugar.

Those were the big favourites and didn't last very long!


Pour la recette en Français, voir ici.

Recipe by Suzanne Roth
"Les petits gateaux d'Alsace”

For 70 cookies:

250g flour
½ packet baking powder
70g icing sugar
1 package vanilla sugar
1 pinch of salt
zest of one lemon
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons cream
100g butter

125g icing sugar
1 egg white
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon water

Preheat oven at 180 ° C.
Mix flour and baking powder, forming a pile in the middle and add the sugar, vanilla sugar, salt and lemon zest, egg yolk and cream. With a little flour to form a dough. Add the butter into pieces and form a ball of dough. Knead well to incorporate the butter. (If the dough sticks, you can put a little expense, but I have not needed)
Preheat oven to 180 ° C
Roll out the dough (not too finely) (to prevent sticking to your roll, you can cover with a sheet of plastic wrap) and cut out biscuits with cookie cutter. Place on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes. Let cookies cool completely.
For the icing: Mix icing sugar with egg white, lemon juice and water.
Apply icing on cookies with a brush and let dry.

I would add more lemon zest as the lemon flavour was not strong enough for my taste.
Et voila! I hope you enjoy the rest of the Holiday!

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