I have not been very adventurous in my Christmas baking this year. Out of the 7 kinds of cookies I made, 6 were recipes I had made at least twice before. The problem is, most of the Christmas cookies I had ever made were delicious and they went on to become someones’ favorite, which obliges me to continue baking them forever. Since my cookie baking capacity is limited, every year there’s less and less room for experiments. This year, the only new recipe I tried was one from Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s beautiful Jerusalem: A Cookbook. My faith in their recipes is limitless – every recipe from their cookbooks I ever made was more than delicious. Therefore I was not surprised that these cookies were very good indeed. How could they not be when they contain all things Christmas? Loosely based on the German ‘”pfeffernüsse”, with all the right spices, orange and lemon zest, tiny currants marinated in brandy, chocolate and lemon glaze on top and decorated with tiny pieces of candied peel, they are everything anyone could want from a Christmas cookie. Practically the only change I made was in the size of the cookies. The recipe instructs you to divide the dough into 16 pieces of 50 grams – I like my cookies more delicate, so I halved the quantities and made 32 cookies. Even so, they are not too tiny – just about the right size.
The recipe also says that the cookies could be stored for a day or two – that is a ridiculously short time for a Christmas cookie. The German pfeffernüsse recipe I have, recommends making the cookies 4 weeks before Christmas for the flavor to develop. I made the cookies 3 days ago and they already taste better now than right after baking.
Christmas spice cookies with lemon glaze
Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook
makes 32 cookies
110 g (¾ cup) currants
2 tbsp brandy
240 g (1 ¾ cup) all-purpose flour
½ tbsp cacao powder (Dutch processed)
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp each: ground cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
150 g (5 ounces) good quality dark chocolate, coarsely grated
125 g (1 stick + 1 tbsp) butter, at room temperature
125 g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp grated orange zest
½ tsp grated lemon zest
½ medium free range egg
160 g (1 ½ cup) icing sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
candied citrus peel to decorate
In a small bowl, mix the currants with the brandy and leave to marinate for at least 10 minutes. In another bowl, mix flour, cocoa, baking powder and chocolate with a whisk.
Cream together butter, sugar, lemon and orange zest. Add egg and stir to incorporate. Add the dry ingredients, followed by currants with brandy. Mix until the dough comes together.
Roll the dough into a fat sausage and divide in half. Roll each half into a thinner log and cut into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a round ball. Place the balls on two baking sheets lined with baking parchment, spacing them about 2 cm apart, and rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 F). Bake the cookies for 15 – 20 minutes, until the tops are firm, but the center is still slightly soft.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Make the glaze by whisking together the icing sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Pour a little glaze over every cookie and decorate each with 3 pieces of candied peel. Leave to set, than store in an air-tight container.