Oh dear, the mad present dash is upon us. I told myself I would be prepared this year. I said I’d finish all my shopping by the 20th. I say that every year…
Strap on your best power striding shoes, gulp down that extra strong coffee, get yo game face on, it’s going to be one long endurance race till those gifts are under the tree – a slalom around aisles of dazed shoppers, all trying their best to stand between you and the perfect present.
When I’m on a present mission, I mean business. I shop like a man. None of that ‘mooching round town with friends’ … this girl takes no prisoners.
Despite my conviction, I really struggle with the process of meaningful present buying. You know, the ones that have to be a bit more than a photo frame, a nice candle or pretty nail varnish. Gifts for those who answer the question “What would you like for Christmas?” with “Something nice.”
“But I’m asking you because you are the most unbelievably difficult person to buy for and my perception of ‘nice’ is a million miles from yours. My ‘nice’ is a blow torch and a set of fine line piping nozzle. Yours is a book on how to develop natural glazes for handmade ceramics …”
Even Father Christmas requires a list …
Much easier are the smaller, ‘you invited me round for lunch and I couldn’t come empty handed’, ‘Thank you for being utterly brilliant’, ‘Here’s a little something’ presents. Probably because they can always be food. No-one ever turns their nose up at beautiful homemade treats. You’re always onto a winner.
In this genre of gift-giving, Lebkuchen is like the Harry Potter or Pride and Prejudice of fiction. Timeless, satisfying, and it can be revisited time and time again. Although it does seem to be either a pivotal part of people’s Christmas food festivities or something they’ve never heard of. I’m definitely the former. Lebkuchen stars take pride of place next to Grandma’s sausage rolls and mince pies at the post-church, pre-present stage of the day.
If you’re in the latter camp, let me educate you in the way of the Lebkuchen. It’s a German biscuit with a cakey texture – does that makes it a cak-cuit, or maybe a bis-cake? You decide. It’s spiced a bit like gingerbread, and is usually glazed in icing or chocolate. But I thought ‘hey, why not go to town and bring out the gold?’ It’s Christmas, after all.
Golden lebkuchen stars
To make these biscuits dairy free, substitute the dark chocolate for water/royal icing
240g light brown sugar
240g plain four
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
¾ tbsp. ground ginger
¼ tbsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. baking powder
125g ground almonds
The zest of ½ an orange
200g dark chocolate
1 can of edible golden spray (I use Dr Oetker)
Line baking trays with baking paper. Place the eggs and sugar in a bowl over a pan of simmering water and using an electric whisk, whisk until the mixture becomes thick, foamy and almost doubled in size. This’ll take about 5 minutes. Once it’s reached this stage remove it from the heat and continue to whisk for an additional 2 minutes.
Sift the flour, almonds, spices, cocoa and orange into the egg mixture and fold in to form an airy, soft dough. Cover the bowl in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4. Lightly grease a cookie cutter using a piece of paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Dust you surface in flour and roll out your dough to about 2cm thick. Using the cookie cutter, cut out stars and place on you baking tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes until they’re no longer stuck to the baking paper. Once cooked transfer to a wire cooling rack.
Melt the dark chocolate and dip each star, top first into the molten chocolate. I find stabbing a fork into the base of each biscuit and using this to dip can make this easier and less messy. Once the chocolate’s set spray each biscuit gold.