I am guessing most of you have never heard of Lebkuchen because most people that eat these tiny spritz cookies off my holidays trays have no idea what they are either. These cookies are of German descent and are traditionally a spritz cookie (formed with an extruder like a cookie press). Think spice cookie meets gingerbread cookie meats graham cracker. They are crunchy and full of the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and vanilla. After cooling they are drizzled with a simple sugar, vanilla and milk glaze. Beautiful and delicious.
I use a cookie press to form these in the shape of tiny Christmas trees. And every year I realize how much I hate my cookie press! I know, I should be telling you what a wonderful invention they are, etc, etc, etc. I approach my cookie press each December after a year has passed with positivity and happy-baking feelings only to, a half-hour later, find myself muttering obscenities under my breath and ripping piles of mashed dough from the end of it into little piles of dough all over the counter. You see, the dough won’t stick to a sheet lined with parchment or silicone because it is too slick. And every year I forget that and I keep pressing the trigger on the cookie press, extruding more and more dough in the hopes that I can force it to stick. Then I break down and remove the parchment and try again. Slightly better results, but that only seems to last through the bit of dough I have currently left in the gun. When I go to “reload” a new bit of dough I do through this battle once again. I have come to the conclusion that my cookie press hates me. Exuding perfectly formed trees one minute, and huge, unrecognizable blobs the next, it really tests my patience. Or maybe I need to make notes to myself from the previous year so I can remember a few things: use a bare cookie sheet, make sure the dough is not too chilled, in-fact it seems to work best if I massage it a bit before loading it and maybe consider buying a new cookie press. Mine is supposed to make one cookie for each press of the trigger but this is far from the case. Half the time, the mechanism that is supposed to squeeze the dough further out doesn’t catch and I’m left standing there pressing it ten times for one cookie, only to have it extremely disfigured.
Ok, is that enough of me ranting? I love the IDEA of a cookie press and despite my frustrations, I make these every year. They are a beautiful, and necessary, filler on a cookie tray, a midst the larger cookies which would otherwise leave a lot of dead space between them. I will have to do some research and invest in a better cookie press next year. Or I won’t and my boyfriend will be standing there laughing at me again next year saying, “You always say how much you love your cookie press but really, it just makes Jess sad”. LOL
SOOOO, if you don’t want to try your luck with a cookie press, these can be formed into a log and sliced, much like the butterscotch cookies or you could even try rolling the dough and making cut-outs of some sort. I think using very small cookie cutters, like the ones you might use to make leaves from pastry dough, would yield beautiful results with these.
The glaze on these is simple and tasty but can be modified to suit your desires. About half the time, I add orange juice to this instead of part of the milk and some zest which adds a nice citrus note to these. You could also amp up the spice flavor by adding some cinnamon to this glaze. Get creative!
(Adapted from christmascookies.com)
*Prepare at least 8 hours before serving
Ingredients for the Dough:
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- ½ tsp. fine salt
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp. ground allspice
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves
- 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 2 ¼ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
Ingredients for the Glaze:
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tbsp. Milk (preferably not non-fat)
- ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F with rack in the center position
- Line two half-sheet trays with either parchment paper or silicone mats
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together the butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy
- Scrape down the bowl and beat in the egg, salt, spices and vanilla
- Scrape down the bowl and gradually beat in the flour until well combined
- If using a cookie press, form dough into 4 logs, using one at a time to extrude cookies according to your cookie press manual. Bake cookies for 6-8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned
- Alternately, form dough into 4 logs and chill for 1 hour before slicing dough into ¼ inch rounds and baking for 6-8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned
- Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing wire racks to cool completely
- While cookies cool, make the glaze by combining glaze ingredients in a small bowl and whisking until thoroughly combined
- Drizzle or pipe glaze over cooled cookies
- Allow glaze to set before storing in airtight containers