If there is one constant in our kitchen during the “holidaze”, it’s sweets. We have a number of birthdays, Hanukkah and Christmas to celebrate, and somehow candy, cakes, cookies and donuts seem to pop up all over the place. As our designated baker, candy maker and kitchen chemist, Carolyn is very busy this time of year (I help clean up….and eat too much). But Carolyn isn’t too busy to try new things, and this year for a cookie exchange Carolyn made these Swiss spiced honey cookies. And they turned out to be a very tasty, and relatively easy, treat. So good that they will be a regular holiday item for us, and as we include Putney Farm honey in the recipe, something we can share with friends that includes a little of our “farm”.
Basler Laeckerli cookies (really more like a bar or blondie, but whatever) include honey, sugar, spices, nuts and candied citrus peel with a dash of Kirsch, a clear cherry brandy. Most recipes include a glaze to add sweetness and for better presentation. We adapted a King Arthur Flour recipe, because their recipes rarely let us down. Recipes vary a bit in the spices, lemon vs. orange peel and hazelnuts vs. almonds, but if you follow the general recipe you can adapt the final ingredients to fit your tastes. And these cookies taste delicious. The dense bars feature a full blast of honey sweetness followed by spice and citrus notes, the nuts add just a little crunch. If you eat one of these, you are likely to eat three…or four…or five.
Making the cookies is an easy process, but somewhat untraditional. After combining dry ingredients (flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda) you cook the sugar and honey until they dissolve and then add the Kirsch, candied citrus peel and nuts (we use orange peel and almonds). Then you stir in the dry ingredients and let the mixture cool into a firm dough. To bake the cookies, you press them into a parchment or foil-lined pan and then bake for about half an hour, and enjoy how your kitchen smells. After cooking and cooling the cookies you make a quick glaze to brush on the cookies. The one big trick here is to use very hot glaze and work rapidly, the glaze cools quickly and will not spread well if you dilly-dally (Carolyn’s words). Once you get the glaze on, just cut and serve.
As for the history of Basler Laeckerli, the name tells you most of the story. The cookies originated in Basel, Switzerland and the name lecker means “delicious”, and the cookies are indeed delicious. The recipe dates back at least 700 years and supposedly was a way for spice merchants to promote their product. And if the streets of Basel were filled with the smell of these spiced cookies in the oven, we bet that it wasn’t a hard sell. When you make these cookies and their aroma fills the air, you may find your family lined up in the kitchen.
Basler Laeckerli: Spiced Honey Cookies:
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour)
Notes Before You Start:
- The recipe suggests almonds and candied orange peel, but you can substitute hazelnuts and / or candied lemon peel.
- The recipe suggests a 10 x 15 baking pan, but you can use a slightly larger or smaller pan, but adjust cooking time up / down with thickness.
What You Get: A unique and very tasty honey and spice cookie / bar.
What You Need: A 10 x 15 baking pan is recommended. No other special equipment is required.
How Long? About 1 hour, with 20 – 25 minutes of active time. An “anytime” dish.
(Makes about 40 cookies)
- 3 cups (12 3/4 oz.) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup (12 oz.) honey
- 1 cup (7 oz.) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons Kirsch
- 1/2 cup candied orange peel, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups almonds, chopped fine but not ground
- Butter or cooking spray for buttering pan
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz.) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar