Wednesday, November 25, 2020

November Lebkuchen with white Sugar Icing l November Lebkuchen mit weißer Zuckerglasur


This is what I am calling a perfect November recipe for Lebkuchen (German gingerbread cookies). Many traditional German recipes will call for leaving the dough to rest overnight, or letting the Lebkuchen dry on the baking sheets before baking them off the next day, you might also find yourself hunting down unusual leavening ingredients like potash (Pottasche) or baker’s ammonia (Hirschhornsalz). However, this recipe for easy November Lebkuchen with White Sugar Icing (or as I like to refer to them: 'everyday Lebkuchen') uses ingredients that you will probably already find in your cupboard around this time of year, well, maybe not the candied orange peel (you can substitute with candied lemon peel) but it is widely available come November.

So, if you get hungry for Lebkuchen but do not feel like waiting forever to be able to indulge, give this recipe a try. My taste testers are convinced that they taste absolutely delicious. They are moist, nutty, wonderfully spicy and fruity from the candied orange peel. Plus their frosty glaze makes them look festive.





The one thing to remember before getting started with these, is that you want to prepare the glaze just before the cookies come out of the oven. You make it with icing sugar and a bit of hot water, so that it sets quickly on the warm cookies, and it takes on a sort of frosted appearance as it dries. If you leave the Lebkuchen to cool while you make the glaze, or you make it with cold water, you don’t get the same pretty frosted effect. 




To me, this is a perfect November recipe because it will lift your spirits as these Lebkuchen come together so easily, yet taste as delicious as any sophisticated Lebkuchen recipe.

As far as the spices are concerned, either use a ready-made German Gingerbread Spice Mix (Lebkuchengewürz) or go with Mixed Spice (typically made with allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves, coriander, and ginger) or mix the spices yourself.

And if you cannot get your hands on baking wafers (Oblaten), make sure to place the Lebkuchen on baking parchment before baking.




November Lebkuchen with white Sugar Icing   (November Lebkuchen mit weißer Zuckerglasur)

(yields about 24 small cookies)


Ingredients

For the Dough

  • 40g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 75g soft brown sugar (weicher brauner Rohrzucker/cassonade brune)
  • 50ml runny honey (local if possible)
  • 1 egg (M), organic or free range
  • 40ml milk, room temperature (I use 3.5%)
  • 2 tsp gingerbread spice mix (Lebkuchengewürz) OR mixed spice OR homemade gingerbread spice mix*
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt
  • 100g plain (AP) flour (Type 405)
  • 100g almond meal OR finely ground natural almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder (I use Weinsteinbackpulver)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 100g chopped nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, OR walnuts)
  • 60g finely chopped candied orange peel (Orangeat)
  • 24 baking wafers (Oblaten), small (5cm/2in)

For the Sugar Glaze

  • 150g icing (powdered) sugar 
  • hot water

Preparation

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (355°F) and line two rimmed baking sheets with baking parchment.
  2. Put the butter, brown sugar, honey, egg, milk, gingerbread spice mix and salt in a bowl. Beat until the mixture is well combined. 
  3. Add the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder and mix well. 
  4. Finally fold in the chopped nuts and chopped candied peel. The mixture will be soft and sticky, but should not be runny.
  5. Divide the dough into 24 portions – take tablespoons of the dough and place on the baking wafers – 12 cookies per sheet. 
  6. Bake the Lebkuchen for about 15 minutes, or until they just puff up slightly and look dry and just beginning to brown at the edges. 
  7. Just before the Lebkuchen come out of the oven, prepare the simple white sugar icing: sift the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually whisk in enough hot water to make a smooth icing that coats the back of a spoon – you should be able to brush it onto the Lebkuchen, but it should not be too runny or watery. Remove the Lebkuchen from the oven and immediately brush each with the warm sugar glaze. As they cool, the Lebkuchen should take on a „frosted“ appearance. Let the icing set completelely before serving


*Gingerbread Spice Mix (Lebkuchengewürz)

Ingredients

(makes 30 grams/4 tbsp)

  • 4 tsp Ceylon cinnamon, ground
  • 3 tsp coriander, ground
  • 1 tsp cloves, ground
  • 1 tsp anise seeds, ground
  • 1 tsp nutmeg, ground
  • 1 tsp star anise or fennel seeds, ground
  • 1 tsp ginger, ground
  • 1 tsp cardamom, ground

Preparation

  1. Blend all spices together.
  2. Store in a tightly sealed small glass jar away from light (or a spice tin). Will keep for four months.



"And I had but one penny in the world, thou should'st have it to buy gingerbread."

William Shakespeare, "Love's Labor's Lost"



For more Lebkuchen inspiration, pls have a look at my other recipes:

  • Elisenlebkuchen (Traditional German Gingerbread) (HERE)
  • Gingerbread Biscotti (Lebkuchen Biscotti) (HERE)
  • Honey-Gingerbread Cutouts (Honig-Lebkuchen-Pferde) (HERE)
  • Pains d' Épices de Saint Nicolas (Saint Nicholas Gingerbread/Nikolauslebkuchen) (HERE)


For information on the wonderful Gingerbread Spice Mix (Lebkuchengewürz) I used in my recipe, please visit the 'Pfeffersack & Soehne' (spice merchant from Koblenz, Germany) website for more details (HERE)



Thursday, November 19, 2020

Red Swiss Chard & Mushroom Filo Tart l Filotarte mit rotem Mangold & braunen Champignons


Filo pastry is paper-thin translucent sheets of pastry often used in Greek, eastern European and Middle Eastern cuisines. When working with filo, it is a good idea to use several layers together to strengthen the delicate sheets. Filo pastry is widely available in supermarkets or Middle eastern markets, it is sold ready-made in rolled layers, either fresh (in the refrigerated section of the supermarket) or frozen.



Actually, working with filo is easy. There is not even any rolling involved. But you have to work quickly with filo pastry or it will dry out. It is always a good idea to cover it with a clean, damp tea towel while working with it. The layers of filo are usually brushed either with melted butter or oil (I usually use a mild olive oil suitable for cooking) to help them brown. 



You can fry filo or oven bake it and it can be used to make a variety of savory as well as sweet dishes such as the Greek spanakopita (the famous spinach and cheese pie) or sweet baklava (Middle eastern nut and honey pastries).



In general, filo pastry makes a great light tart shell perfect for all year round when filled with seasonal vegetables.

In spring I prepared a delicate Filo Tart with White Asparagus, Goat Cheese & Meadowsweet Blossoms (Filotarte mit weißem Spargel, Ziegenkäse & Mädesüßblüten) (HERE), come November, I like to make this Red Swiss Chard & Mushroom Filo Tart (Filotarte mit rotem Mangold & Pilzen) with red or rainbow Swiss chard and sautéed brown (chestnut) mushrooms.



If you like, you can substitute spinach or even kale for the Swiss chard. And if you prefer to use another type of mushroom, you can use white button, portobello or chanterelle mushrooms – in general any type of mushroom that is in season. No matter which mushroom you choose to use, make sure to pan-fry them before adding them to the chard mixture, as this will add even more flavor.

And if you aren’t really a fan of sesame paste and would rather not use the tahini, you can brush the filo layers with a mild olive oil or melted butter instead. But we love tahini and it does lend a special flavor component here that pairs beautifully with the earthy taste of Swiss chard.



Red Swiss Chard & Mushroom Filo Tart (Filotarte mit rotem Mangold & braunen Champignons)

Ingredients

For the Filling

  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 garlic clove (optional), finely minced
  • a few pepperoncini flakes (Italian chili flakes)
  • 500g Swiss chard (red or rainbow), washed and dried – tear the leaves into large pieces and slice the stems (keep the stems separate from leaves)
  • 300g brown (chestnut) mushrooms, brushed and quartered
  • mild olive oil (suitable for cooking)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • black and white sesame seeds

For the Pastry

  • 5 sheets of ready-made filo pastry, each about 32 x 38cm/13 x 15in
  • 3 tbsp tahini (or more – if your tahini is a little too thick for brushing the filo pastry sheets, dilute it with some olive oil)

Preparation

  1. In a sauté pan, add some olive oil and sweat the sliced spring onions, garlic (if using), and pepperoncini flakes. Then add the sliced Swiss chard stems and stir while frying over medium heat. 
  2. Add the torn leaves and cook for another few minutes – make sure to stir regularly.
  3. Taste and season the mixture with freshly ground pepper and salt. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In a frying pan add some olive oil and fry the mushrooms in batches. If there is some cooking liquid that has not evaporated, make sure to drain it before adding the mushrooms to the Swiss chard mixture. Mix together well.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (356°F).
  6. Lightly oil a 23cm (9in) loose-based fluted quiche pan or pizza pan (which is what I used) that is about 3.5cm (1.5in) deep. Line with baking parchment.
  7. Place a sheet of filo pastry in the baking pan, pressing it firmly against the base and sides. Using the tip of a pastry brush, brush the pastry with a little tahini then cover with a second pastry sheet at a right angle to the first. Brush with more tahini and cover with a third sheet at the same angle to the first. Brush with the tahini and cover with a fourth sheet, running in the same direction as the second. Cut the overhanding pastry (optional) and brush lightly with some olive oil. 
  8. Scatter the chard-mushroom-mixture over the base of the pastry case and press down lightly, then drizzle a few drops of olive oil over the top.
  9. Bake the tart in the pre-heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes OR until the pastry is browned and crisp and the filling is set.
  10. Take the tart out of the oven and leave to cool in the baking pan for about 10 minutes before removing.
  11. Sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds and serve warm or cold.



If you have never cooked with Swiss chard, this is a great recipe to get started and if you have never used filo pastry for your savory bakes, this is definitely a recipe you would want to try.




For more Filo Tart inspiration on my blog, please have a look at the following:

  • December Filo Tart with Mini Brussels Sprouts (Winterliche Filotarte mit Rosenkohlröschen) (HERE)
  • Filo Tart with fresh Figs & Prosciutto (Filotarte mit frischen Feigen & Prosciutto) (HERE)
  • Crispy, Crackly Apple-Almond Tart (HERE)
  • River Cottage "Veg Everyday" Courgette and Filo Rice Pie (HERE)
  • Filo Tart with White Asparagus, Goat Cheese & Meadowsweet Blossoms (Filotarte mit weißem Spargel, Ziegenkäse & Mädesüßblüten) (HERE)