I finally finished planning all my Christmas shopping and I watched a couple of cheesy movies so it was about time I crank up the Christmas tunes and get on baking! The first stop are leckerli; my all-time favorite spiced cookies. Leckerli are hard spiced cookies that are crunchy outside but softer in the middle. It’s a surprising cookie full of flavor, crunchy nuts and interesting textures. You’ve never had anything like it!
I can’t get quite into the spirit of Christmas if I don’t have my cookie box filled to the brim with leckerlis. They smell heavenly, they taste incredible, and they even get better over time. The longer you keep them, the deeper the flavors of honey and spices will develop.
TRADITIONAL ALSATIAN CHRISTMAS COOKIES
Bàsler lackerle (or leckerli) are traditional spiced cookies that originated from Basel in Switzerland. They have made their way to Alsace (eastern France) where they are prepared for the year-end celebrations. The leckerli recipe that my family has been using for years has been adapted from a baking cookbook called “Bredele et gâteaux de Noël”. It’s written by Thierry Kappler and most of the recipes come from historical sources, his mother & grandmother or family friends. He has written dozens of cookbooks focused on Alsatian cuisine in the nineties and I have had such a hard time tracking down the ones my dad doesn’t already have in his collection. Oh, I wish new editions would get published but I digress! Thanks to the spices, orange zest, nuts and a bit of alcohol, leckerlis taste just like Christmas! I really love cinnamon but feel free to adjust the amount or type of spices according to your preferences.
CANDIED FRUITS & ALCOHOL IN COOKIES
I might be in my late twenties but I still didn’t outgrow the get-raisins-and-candied-fruits-away-from-my-bakes-,-chocolate-chips-only phase. If you’ve got a more sophisticated palate than mine and want traditional leckerli, swap half of the almonds for an equal amount of chopped candied fruits/peels.
When I make these cookies over at my parents, I use the totally legal (cough cough) eau-de-vie that my uncle makes in his basement. However, in my own kitchen I never make leckerli with alcohol. I don’t drink digestive and I’m always reluctant to buy a whole bottle of alcohol just to use ¼ of a glass. So I use milk instead of alcohol for the dough and the leckerli cookies turn out pretty good too! However, if you only use milk and no alcool the cookies will be less chewy. If you want to avoid this happening, don’t let the dough rest and bake it straight after shaping the rectangle.
COOKIE CUTTER COOKIES
I have never tried it but I don’t see why you couldn’t turn leckerli into cut-out cookies. Chop the almonds (and optional candied fruits) more finely. Roll the dough on a floured working surface to 5mm (¼ in) thickness. Cut out the dough using your favorite Christmasy floured cookie cutter and space out the cookies on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 min instead of 18 min. Then add an extra tablespoon of juice (or water) to the glaze to make it thinner. Glaze the cookies using a pastry brush and place them back in the oven for an additional 2 min.
If you want to fill your Christmas cookie box with other cookies, here are some of my favorite recipes:Print
Leckerli are hard spiced cookies that are crunchy outside but softer in the middle. Thanks to spices, orange zest, nuts and a bit of alcohol, leckerli cookies taste (and smell) just like Christmas!
For the dough:
- 200g blanched almonds (1 ⅓ cups)
- 375g all-purpose flour (2 ⅔ cups)
- 70g light brown sugar (½ cup)
- 11g baking powder (1 tbsp)
- finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 2 ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp nutmeg, grated
- 215g pure honey (7 ½ oz)
- 3 tbsp colorless brandy such as German plum schnapps, or replace with whole milk
- 45 ml whole milk (3 tbsp)
For the icing:
- 160g powdered sugar (1 cup)
- 30ml freshly pressed orange juice (2 tbsp, but you might need a bit more), or replace with water
- Make the dough. Roughly chop the almonds and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, orange zest, spices and mix to combine. Make a well in the center and pour the honey, milk, brandy (or more milk) into the well. With one hand make circular movements to bring all the ingredients together and form a soft dough. If needed, add more milk (1 tbsp at a time) to incorporate all the flour.
- Roll the dough. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly flour it. Tip the dough onto the center of the floured baking sheet and shape it into a rough rectangle using your hands. Dust the top of the dough and your rolling pin with flour. Roll out the dough until it’s 1cm (½ in) thick. Sprinkle more flour if the dough sticks to the rolling pin. Trim the edges with a sharp knife to get a rectangle measuring 20*30cm (8*12 in). Cover the rectangle with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the leckerli dough. Let it rest overnight or for up to 24h.
- Bake. Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F)*. Once preheated, remove the plastic wrap and bake the leckerli for 20 min. The cookie dough will have risen slightly but it shouldn’t turn golden brown. Remove the baking sheet from the oven but don’t turn it off. Let the baked dough cool down for 15 min. In the meantime, sift the powdered sugar over a wide bowl. Whisk the sugar and orange juice (or water) together to form a smooth icing without any lumps. Spread the icing all over the surface of the rectangle using a palette knife. Bake for 2 min. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and leave to cool down and set completely (about 2h). Cut into squares or rectangles.
* 145°C (295°F) if using a convection oven
Pure honey has been pasteurized but doesn’t contain any added ingredients (oil, artificial flavor, sweeteners, artificial coloring).
Leckerli tastes better the day after baking.
If you only use milk and no alcohol the cookies will be less chewy. If you want to avoid this happening, don’t let the dough rest and bake it straight after having shaped the rectangle.
The cookies will keep for up to 2 weeks stored in an airtight container in a cool and dry room.
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 127
Keywords: spiced cookies, soft christmas cookie recipe, alsatian desserts