The Sierpinski Carpet realised in yummy butter cookie dough.
Geeky gastronomy warms the cockles of my nerdy little heart. Evil Mad Scientist, you are my new hero.
Lebkuchen are pretty much a staple this time of the year but seem to come in so many different forms and fashions, I even have two different favourite recipes for them – one very much like gingerbread and another which is more of a cake. What they have in common is an abundance of spices and chocolate. It’s the only other chocolatey treat I make this time of the year and I can handle eating about two then get overwhelmed with the richness.
What you need:
1 cup soft (room temperature) butter
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tbsp butter or margarine
Cream the butter, sugar eggs and vanilla together. A handmixer is good for that part but becomes redundant on the next step, which is adding the flour. At this point the dough tends to get too sticky and thick for a hand blender, so if you’ve dough hooks and a stand mixer then this is a good time for that, if not you’re relegated to wooden spoon land and over-developed dominant arm triceps like the rest of us. After the flour has been thoroughly blended in add the rest of the ingredients and blend until it all becomes a mad blended thing. Chill for two hours.
On a very well-floured surface roll the dough out to ¼ inch and cut into whatever shapes your little hearts desire. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 8 minutes at 350 degrees.
After the cookies have cooled they can be ‘iced’. In our house this doesn’t look like icing as much as it looks like Jackson Pollock took over the kitchen. Cookies get dunked, drizzled over, tossed and even smeared. In order to do this the chips and the butter or margarine need to be melted together in a double boiler and kept warm over high heat through the process. Once the chocolate has reached a liquid state all of the above verbs may be acted out upon our spicy little bundles of joy.
I know them as zitronenkuchen, though it seems there are many things which go by that name and I’m not really sure why there’s an emphasis on the lemons in the nomenclature when the star of this little attraction is surely the abundance of hazelnuts. But I digress.
It’s certainly a fiddlier recipe than one who doesn’t bake should engage with, however the results are well worth the fiddling and I really only make them once a year so I daresay my I can afford to have my non-baking mind blown at that cost. This is another bastardized version of a classic recipe; I’ve added cardamom (because I have a small crush on the lemon/hazelnut/cardamom flavour combination), more lemon and a little twist in preparation which make them exactly the cookie I look forward to all year long.
What you need:
3.5 cups ground hazelnuts.
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 sticks of butter
8 cardamom pods
1 tsp. ground mace
1 tsp. ground ginger
Juice and grated rind of 2 lemons
Grind your cardamom pods. I use a mortar and pestle for this and discard the actual poddy bits, adding only the powedery interiors to the recipe. This can also be done (albeit, a wee bit less elegantly as with a mortar and pestle, but it works) by placing the pods between bits of wax paper or in a paper bag and running a rolling pin over them. One way or the other, please, please, please use cardamom pods. Using previously ground cardamom will result in cruel and unusual punishment up to and including having to listen to Englebert Humperdink tunes on repeat for the rest of your life. True story.
Combine the flour and sugar and spices, cutting in the butter once combined. You don’t have to be too meticulous about cutting the butter in as one might be with a pastry, but it needs to be in there. After doing a half-assed job of cutting the butter in add 2.5 cup of the ground nuts. Toss the rest of the nuts into (or back into, if you’re grinding your own) the food processor and grind some more. Grind until you’ve basically got a nut butter. That little step is going to take these cookies from something of sugar cookie consistency to the sublime decadence of shortbread and all of its melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Add the nut butter, eggs and lemon rind and juice. Blend with an electric hand blender until everything is happily amalgamated. With a spatula move the lot of it into a ball in the center of the bowl and chill until hard. That’s going to take a couple of hours so you might as well pour yourself a drink and setup with some good eye candy (I recommend Slant’s 100 Greatest Videos), then a book, then some sleep. Ok. Leaving them overnight is best.
This is how we chill in Canadia:
The rolling and the cutting are where things get fiddly. Because the cookie dough is very much like that of shortbread it will melt quickly with much handling and stick to anything it comes into contact with. As such the surface upon which they’ll be rolled and cut should be well-floured. Please bear in mind that this is not bread dough we’re working with and adding some flour is not going to compromise the integrity of the end result. So be generous; flour the table/counter, the rolling pins, the cookie cutters and yourself. It’s sticky. Sticky, sticky sticky and melty. Because it’s melty you’ll want to work in small batches, returning what you’re not rolling and cutting to the fridge.
The dough should be rolled out into 1/4 inch slabs, then cut with whichever cookie cutter shapes your little hearst desire. We used various stars and moons and butterflies and maple leaves. Having a chopstick on hand to remove bits of dough from the more detailed parts of cookie cutters is very handy.
After dough is cut it should be moved directly to a greased cookie sheet. This recipe makes a whole lot of cookies. Like, in the 72 piece range depending on how big the shapes one chooses are. As such, they’ve pretty much got to be baked in batches so an oven preheated to 350 degrees is required. Cookies will need to be baked at that temp for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.