Thursday, December 20, 2012
Some recipes are a matter of trial and error, and in the cafe business, looks are important. No one knows that better than an experimental baker like Stella. In preparation for holiday time, Stella likes to come up with a few new offerings at her cafe. She gets a great deal of satisfaction out of customers coming in, looking at the baked goods in the glass front case and saying, "That looks really good, can I try one of those?"
This year, Stella was hoping to have a brand new kind of soft baked cookie for her customers, a kind rarely seen outside of Germany or European specialty shops: Lebkucken. After spending several hours poring over the internet, she decided on a recipe from a German food site. She purchased the ingredients and spent an evening preparing a good-sized batch of the spicy iced cookies. She mixed up the dough and put the suggested three tablespoon mounds a few inches apart on parchment paper lined cookie sheets. It was the ugliest dough she'd ever seen. She likened it to something better left to the imagination, but it smelled good, so she kept up her faith in the process.
As the cookies baked she already knew they needed more of the special spice mixture, and she feared they would be bland. Texture wise, the cookies turned out textbook perfect, but they were still not very pretty. Next, she turned her attention to the boiled icing flavoured with orange liqueur, following the directions to the letter. 'Boil the sugar and water for a few minutes..." she muttered to herself as she stirred the mixture. What exactly was 'a few minutes'? Three? Seven? Nine? She decided to err on the side of caution and boil it for three. The icing was meant to be brushed on the cookies when warm, and she knew a nice, glossy icing could rescue the Lebkuchen more than anything. Better make it thin. When the mixture looked right, she took it off the heat and sifted the required amount of confectioners sugar into it. Within seconds the icing was more like fudge than icing. She spread it on the cookies as quickly as possible. The result? Quite possibly the ugliest cookies ever known. This would not do!
In the end, the Lebkucken were very good with tea, when consumed by Stella and her girls, who declared them 'not bad'.
"Oh well, there is always next year, and plenty more recipes on the internet to try", she said to Kendra and Zoe. "But it's getting a bit late for this year."
For the cafe this year, instead of Lebkuchen, they decided to make extra gingerbread cookies, cut out in the shapes of Santas and snowmen, stars and candy canes. (The recipe for those can be found in the previous post.) They, at least, were always reliable.
The above photo is from the official Nuremburg Gingerbread site. I have a feeling Stella won't rest until her Lebkuchen look just like theirs.