When I finally accepted the fact that I can't eat gluten any more, there were two foods that came to mind immediately that I knew I'd have to figure out how to adapt quickly - my Thanksgiving stuffing (done rather easily by turning a loaf of Udi's into bread cubes) and lebkucken (pronounced lock-who-gen).
I knew the lebkucken were going to be a little more difficult, but to me...they are the Christmas cookie...the one my great-grandmother and my grandmother made and that my mom not only made, but sold at craft fairs when I was a kid...the cookies that covered my parent's dining room table as we frosted and sprinkled for hours...the ones that we describe as "sort of like gingerbread, but so much better"...the treat that got left out for Santa every year (and still does) with a glass of milk and a carrot for Rudolph...and the ones we would hide in zipper bags in the freezer or a high cupboard, to re-discover months later because they just got better.
I'm not sure that these will get better with time (though they were better this morning than they were yesterday), and with our upcoming move I'm not sure I'll be able to test that out this year. I'm not sure the flour mix is 100% perfect and may tinker with it in the future, but for this year it's good enough. I searched and searched and searched to find a recipe close to the one passed down from my Great-Grandma and finally had to just wing it. The flour mix and rolling technique are based on this gingerbread recipe from Ginger Lemon Girl and they worked quite well. I'd love to make this a little less refined in the future, but decided the flours were enough of a change for this year.
Gluten-Free Christmas Lebkucken
Makes about 50 2.5" cookies (more or less depending on what shape you cut)
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. molasses
1 c. sweet rice flour
1 c. sorghum flour
1 c. tapioca starch
1/2 t. xanthan gum
3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1 t. each: cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg
1/2 t. baking soda
1 T. lemon juice
Extra sweet rice flour for rolling out
To make the dough:
Combine honey and molasses in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, remove from heat and allow to cool.
I usually do this the night before I plan to make the cookies. And keep an eye on it - honey and molasses boiling over make a mess on the stove that smells great, but is torture to clean up!
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours and xanthan gum.
I used a wisk to combine, which I thought worked pretty well.
Add in brown sugar, spices and baking soda. Combine.
And take a big sniff - it smells lovely!
Add the egg, lemon juice and honey/molasses mixture and stir with a strong wooden or bamboo spoon to combine.
I suppose you could use a strong mixer, but there's something about doing this by hand. And a strong spoon is necessary - metal will bend and we've broken countless lesser wooden spoons in this dough through the years.
Form dough into loaf, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled.
This makes a huge difference in the texture of the dough. I left mine in the fridge about an hour and a half.
To roll, cut and bake:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut two sheets of plastic wrap, and tape one to the counter so it doesn't move while you're rolling.
This made it sooo much easier to roll.
Sprinkle with sweet rice flour, and place one third of the dough log on the plastic wrap taped to the counter. Dust the top of the dough with more rice flour and cover with the second piece of plastic wrap.
Roll the dough to about 1/4" thick and cut using your preference of cookie cutter.
Place cookies on cookie sheets about 1" apart and bake for 10-12 minutes. The cookies will brown lightly on the edges and feel firmer to the touch.
I used my Pampered Chef baking stones, didn't bother to line them with anything and had no issues with sticking at all. If I were using a regular baking sheet, I would have lined with parchment or a Silpat mat (which I don't have, but really want).
The uncut part can be smooshed back together and rolled again to cut.
But try not to do it too many times - each time you roll, you're adding a bit more rice flour to the dough which can make it a little tougher.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
I've never measured this, but I dump a cup or two of powdered sugar into a bowl and add milk slowly. Whisk until there are no lumps and you've reached the consistency you desire. I don't like it super thick, but not so thin that it runs off the cookie. A dash of vanilla or a bit of orange or lemon juice are nice additions.
And sprinkles are definitely optional, but highly recommended!
For a vegan cookie, replace the egg with egg replacer and the milk in the glaze with almond milk. I've read varying opinions on whether or not honey is vegan, so you're going to have to use your own judgement.
For the original version, just like Grandma used to make, skip the flours and xanthan gum and add in 3 cups of all-purpose flour...except the batch I grew up with my Mom and Grandma making was 4 times the size of this one. That's a whole lot of cookies!
Also, there's no need to refrigerate before rolling with the original.
Have a wonderful Christmas and be sure to check back next Tuesday for a decadent flourless chocolate cake perfect for ringing in the New Year!