Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Family's Christmas Cookies

One of my favorite parts of preparing for Christmas when I was growing up was helping Mom make the Christmas cookies. There were several different types that we always had: French lace roll-ups, Swedish heirlooms, white chocolate covered pretzels (I know, technically these aren't cookies), and... my favorite... Lebkuchen! Lebkuchen is a traditional German molasses cookie that looks kind of like gingerbread. They include pecans, walnuts, and dates along with a whole lot of yummy spices!

The first year I lived on my own, I got way too excited about recreating the wonderful Christmas coziness that I always enjoyed at home with my parents. I did have to make a few sacrifices. I got a fake tree instead of a live one, thinking the lesser fire risk would be a good idea since I was living alone. I did buy a few pine scented candles to try and make up for it though.

One thing I knew I couldn't scrimp on was lebkuchen. I went out and got a new mixing bowl that was big enough to handle the huge recipe as well as a heavy duty wooden spoon as I had heard my mother's stories about all of the spoons she had broken over the years trying to stir her lebkuchen dough.

I remember calling my mom from every aisle of the grocery store confirming that I was getting the right ingredients. "What kind of molasses do I need?" "Whole dates or chopped?" The calls continued when I got home and started mixing. Unfortunately I tried to add one cup of flour at a time... which worked great for the first four cups. By the time I got to the fifth or sixth cup I was calling my mother once again asking her how in the world I was supposed to finish adding all eight cups when my arm already felt like it was on fire. She laughed and told me that I should have only added the first two or three cups one at a time and wished me luck on the remainder of my stirring.
When Seth and I got married, my parents gave us a kitchen aid standing mixer and even at the end of June I was thinking about lebkuchen and how much easier it would be to use the dough hook to mix in those 8 cups of flour!

This year was my third year making lebkuchen with the mixer and it was every bit as wonderful as I remembered! I invited two middle school girls from our church to come over and help me since I didn't have much time and needed some extra hands. We had a lot of fun and the girls loved the cookies.
After a few hours of work (and having to put a few dozen back through the oven a second time) we ended up with about 8 dozen cookies. More than enough for the church bazaar, sending some home with the girls, taking some to work, bringing some home to my family for Christmas, and still having some left over for Seth and I to enjoy in 2010! Now if only I could find a use for that gigantic wooden spoon...

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