Shine like a star this Christmas with lebkuchen
Feature editor Jackie May's column about life and family appears every Monday in The Times. She has a blog of the same name.
HOLD THE TURKEY
Raisin-stuffed puddings, gifts, eggnog, turkey especially - you can keep them all.
What I want at Christmas is a whole lot of really good German Christmas biscuits. Every year when we were children, plates of these would appear all through December, with especially enormous platters to keep one's strength up while decorating the tree. Juicy, dense, highly flavoured and indulgent in every way - they put "normal" biscuits to shame.
You can find a limited supply in many supermarkets, but the place I like to go for an extensive fix is Lohmiller K & P. This odd stationery and confectionery shop is hidden, bizarrely, in a top corner of Cresta Shopping Centre.
Among the wonderful goods are soft, chewy plum-filled chocolate-covered lebkuchen, anise biscuits, marzipan and persipan stollen (the persipan is made from apricot kernels rather than almonds), and my favourite, zimtsterne (cinnamon stars).
Lohmiller K & P can be contacted on 011-478-1106.
I won't pretend that these are the quickest biscuits you've ever made. The distinctive taste and texture comes from using unpeeled almonds. This means grinding them yourself.
You can also make them with standard peeled ground almonds, which I often do, but they won't be quite the same.
For one large tray of biscuits
3 egg whites / 400g ground unpeeled almonds, ground until as fine as sand in a spice grinder with 75g of icing sugar. Or standard ground almonds / pinch of salt / 375g icing sugar / juice of one medium lemon / one tspn cinnamon / ½ tspn ground cardamom.
How: Preheat oven to 140C. Beat whites until soft peaks. Sift in the sugar (or what remains of it, if you ground some with the almonds) gradually - spoon by spoon - while beating in bet-ween additions. Don't be tempted to add all the sugar at once.
Put aside a third of this mix in a small bowl. This will form the topping or icing later on.
Gently mix remainder of the whites with the lemon juice, almonds, spices and salt.
On a clean, floured kitchen work surface, roll out lightly to just more than a centimetre in thickness. Punch out stars.
Place carefully onto baking paper and, using a teaspoon, coat each sparingly with the egg-white sugar mix you set aside. Bake at 140C for about 25 minutes. Leave on the tray for 10 minutes to firm. Cool on a rack. They keep well for weeks in an airtight container.
My brain was deeply in the shade last week: the recipe for beer bread should have read one 500g packet self-raising flour, not one packet flour, weight unknown.