Holidays and special events…we all overeat, especially at Christmas. It is so hard to turn away and not indulge during the celebrations. Every specialty food is loaded with preservatives, additives and yes…sugar. But I have found a Christmas Cookie which gives the perfect ingredients for the proper, nutritious feeding of our head brains and our gut brains without excess sugar.
These cookies date back to the middle ages when the advent of celebrating the birth of Christ began to replace traditional European solstice rituals. Around this same time, commerce instigated gastronomic changes into the world of cooking, particularly introducing foreign spices.
Nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper, along with other spices, were just starting to become widely used with dried exotic fruits like citron, apricots and dates adding sweetness and texture to desserts.
These ingredients, along with sugar were not always readily available and quite expensive. Combined with lard or butter, gastronomic treats hosting these ingredients would have been prized as expensive delicacies. Only on the most important holiday could families afford treats like these which led to a baking bonanza to prepare for Christmas.
And unlike pies or cakes, cookies could be easily shared and given to friends and neighbors. Christmas cookies date back to these medieval gifts.
For example peppery Papparkakor from Sweden, lemony Krumkake from Norway, almond flavored Letterbanket from Holland and/or spicy Lebkuchen from Germany are traditional Christmas delicacies.
Granted, however similar, ingredients today are not the same ingredients of the middle ages. So in translating traditional ingredients for modern day ingredients, we have two basic ‘good head brain and gut brain’ problems…flour, specifically gluten, and sugar. In analyzing these historic Christmas cookie recipes for healthy brain ingredients, Lebkuchen from Germany, holds the best promise as it calls for no flour, you can make it low sugar and it has a high ratio of nuts. Honestly: this recipe is a bit involved but the taste without the guilt is so worth the effort. Treat you and yours. Merry Christmas.
Thanks go to economist David D. Friedman for his medieval German cookbook research and Kimberly Killebrew, her website, The Daring Gourmet, for the inspiration for making this dish brain food accessible.
- 5 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups honey
- 1 teaspoon quality pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups almond meal
- 2 cups hazelnut meal ^
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 teaspoons Lebkuchengewürz, homemade preferred(see **below for the recipes)
- 4 ounces candied lemon peel, homemade preferred, **
- 4 ounces candied orange peel, homemade preferred, **
- Blanched whole almonds cut in half lengthwise +
^I did not have any hazelnut meal in the pantry so I used 4 cups of almond meal and cookies were superb!
+just buy sliced Almonds at grocery
For the Chocolate Glaze:
- 3 ounces quality dark chocolate powder
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil – do not use butter
Directions: Place chocolate and oil in a small bowl and slowly heat, stirring occasionally, until melted. If glaze becomes firm, reheat.
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
2. Pulse candied lemon and orange peel in a food processor until finely minced. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the sugar, honey and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
4. Add the ground almonds and hazelnuts, salt, baking powder, Lebkuchengewürz, and candied lemon and orange peels and stir vigorously until thoroughly combined. (You can use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat for about 2 minutes). The mixture will be wet but if it is too thin to scoop add some more almond or hazelnut meal.
5. Scoop blobs of the mixture onto a greazed or parchment paper lined cookie sheet and press down with the bottom of a glass to make flat. Dip glass in bit coconut oil if dough sticks.
6. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25-28 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet and allow to cool completely.
7. Once cooled, place a wire rack over a cookie sheet (to catch the drippings). Dip half the Lebkuchen in the chocolate glaze letting the excess drip back into the bowl and then place the Lebkuchen on the wire rack. Arrange 3 almonds on each Lebkuchen while the glaze is still wet and leave out to hardened.
8. Keep stored in an airtight container or in refrigerator to keep chocolate solid if you have hot Christmas weather. They will keep for several weeks and the flavor improves with time.
9. Makes about 35
Authentic Lebkuchengewürz (German Holiday Spice Blend)**
THE essential ingredient to authentic tasting Lebkuchen, absolutely NOTHING compares to the bold and vibrant flavors of homemade Lebkuchengewürz!
Servings: 4 tablespoons
- 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Instructions–Combine the spices together and store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place for up to one year.
How to Make non sugary Candied Lemon and Orange Peels**
Store bought candied citrus peels coated in crystallized sugar loaded with preservatives and additives is NOT what we want. Honey is the answer. Plus the taste is so much nicer. (These homemade citrus peels are the 2nd key to good tasting Lebkuchen.)
- Peels from 3 oranges and 4 lemons (Can also use grapefruits, Meyer lemons, limes as long as washed and scrubed as citrus is highly sprayed. Use organic if possible.)
- 2 cups water
- ¾ cup honey
- Slice both ends of the citrus fruits and remove peel. You can remove a little of the white pith but not necessary. (I just keep all my citrus peels and store in freezer and pull out when needed.) Slice the peels into ¼ inch wide strips.
- Cover peels in water and boil for 15 minutes, pour in a colander to drain and rinse twice.
- Boil 2 cups fresh water and honey to blend honey. Bring peels to a boil then simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally or until peels become translucent.
- Use splotted spoon to remove peels to a wire rack to drip dry. Save excess syrup and add to your smoothie or hot tea.
- You can wait to cool to immediately use in Lebkuchen or keep drying for one or two days. Can store in airtight container in refrigerator for few months.