Le­bkuchens

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE -

This Ger­man gin­ger­bread-type cookie is the smell and taste of Christ­mas for me. I’m not ex­actly cer­tain how the tra­di­tion started, but my next-door neigh­bor Dave Ulmer would come over to our house for a pre-Christ­mas two-day af­fair of mak­ing about 24 dozen of these bad boys with my mom. It was a se­ri­ous un­der­tak­ing for which my mom owned a spe­cially sol­dered rect­an­gle cookie cut­ter and plas­tic dish bins for com­bin­ing all the in­gre­di­ents. The orig­i­nal recipe — dated 1936, from Dave’s mother, Anne — calls for ap­prox­i­mately 11 cups of flour. I think this tra­di­tion came to our house be­cause Dave’s wife, Mary, dis­liked the smell of anise, and be­cause my par­ents were willing to take the closet doors off their hinges, lay them out flat, cover them with wax pa­per and use them as ex­tra counter space in or­der to smear ic­ing on each of the le­bkuchen squares. At first, I re­sented that these were not the su­per-sweet, pow­dered-sugar-cov­ered con­fec­tions found at my friends’ homes (and I made sure that we never set these out for Santa, lest he be an­gry at us for leav­ing some­thing that’s such an ac­quired taste), but af­ter a few years, I came to love these mo­lasses- and honey-filled gems. They freeze beau­ti­fully — I know this be­cause once in a while, my brothers and I would find a dozen packed away in the freezer some­time in June and bliss­fully eat them all in one sit­ting. When I made this recipe — which I di­vided, so it makes about 2 dozen 3-inchby-3-inch squares — the smell was in­stant time-travel. I broke out Elvis’s “Blue Christ­mas,” called my mom and we laughed about old times. In­gre­di­ents ¼ cup but­ter, melted 2 ta­ble­spoons white sugar 2 ta­ble­spoons brown sugar ½ cup mo­lasses ½ cup honey ¼ cup wa­ter ½ tea­spoon anise ex­tract (the orig­i­nal recipe calls for anise oil — if you have that, just use about a quar­ter less be­cause it’s stronger) ¼ tea­spoon cin­na­mon k tea­spoon nut­meg k tea­spoon mace ½ tea­spoon bak­ing soda ½ cup chopped can­died fruit ¼ cup chopped wal­nuts (other nuts works too) 2¾ cups flour

Photos by Amy Brothers, The Den­ver Post

Le­bkuchens are a Ger­man cookie Ali­son Bor­den learned to make from a neigh­bor.

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