Basler Leckerli means 'little delicious things from Basel'. And that is just what they are - chewy little cookies that are spicy and fruity at the same time. And they get better the longer they're stored! Just the thing to have with a cup of tea during the holiday season or in those snowy months in the New Year . . . if they last that long!
The season is fast approaching! This month for our Eat the World recipe challenge we're focusing on Christmas recipes/treats from around the world. I haven't had much time for baking, being a busy student this semester, but I did manage to sneak in a few traditional cookies. In less than a week we're heading to Germany to spend Christmas in Bavaria! We're meeting some of our children there who are currently traveling and living in Europe. I am trying not to think about it as I busily wrap up all my last assignments for my Culinary Nutrition Course. But when I procrastinate with a bit of Christmas baking (it's called procrastibaking), I can't help but get a little bit (a whole lot) excited.
The smell of spices lingers in the air as I've baked two batches of these delicious little Basler Leckerli (and some authentic Lebkuchen too, which I'll share soon). They are a traditional Swiss Christmas cookie, beloved all over Germany as well. These diminutive glazed biscuits have a unique chewy texture (from the honey) and taste spicy, sweet, and fruity all at the same time, perfect for nibbling with a cup of tea. Even though I've just discovered these little deliciousli, they taste like Christmas to me, and remind me of much of the holiday baking of my childhood.
They're called Basler because they were created by local spice merchants in the city of Basel, Switzerland (in the 1400s), and they're called leckerli, (or läckerli) because in German, lecker means 'delicious', and in Swiss, the suffix -li means 'little' - a perfect amalgamation.
I first baked them this fall at a Swiss friend's home as I was helping her cater a Swiss dinner for a Culinary Art Day. The Basler Leckerli were such delicious little bites, I had to make them at home again, and adapt them for our gluten free family. I used her traditional recipe, and just decreased the gluten free flour a bit.
These traditional cookies do take some elbow grease, as the dough is very stiff and sticky, and you need to work quickly to handle it while it's still warm. They also take some strength to cut into bars, which also needs to be done while they are still warm. But the effort is so worth it. The cookies are best if they age for a few days before you eat them - a week is even better. They get more tender, flavourful, and chewy the longer they age.
How to make Basler Leckerli
You can chop the nuts and candied peel finely by hand, or do it the lazy way like I did - use the food processor.
Stir the nuts, candied peel and spices into the flour. Then heat the honey and brown sugar in a saucepan and pour it into the dry ingredients. Stir it quickly together - it will become a stiff, sticky batter.
Plop the batter onto two parchment-lined cookie sheets.
Let the dough rest for a couple hours, then bake it and glaze it while it's hot.
Cut the dough into little rectangles right away while it's still warm (takes some more muscle to do this).
Happy Holiday Baking (even if it is procrastibaking)!
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Basler Leckerli (Swiss Christmas Cookie Bars)
- 2 cups (250gms) finely chopped almonds (1½ cups whole almonds, chopped)
- ⅓ cup (60gms) packed candied orange peel
- ⅓ cup (60gms) packed candied citron peel
- zest of one organic lemon
- 4¼ cups (600gms) regular flour (or 4 cups/550gms gluten free flour blend)
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups (500gms) honey
- 1 cup (200gms) natural evaporated cane sugar (or 1⅓ cups/200 gms coconut sugar)
For the glaze:
- ¾ cup (90gms) icing sugar/powdered sugar/confectioner's sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
- Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper that sticks up at least one inch (2.5 cm) on each side.
- Finely chop the almonds and candied peel. You can do this by hand or in the food processor (much easier). For the food processor, chop the almonds coarsely first, then add the peel and process together until they are evenly ground, with little chunks of the nuts still remaining.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the chopped nuts, peel, lemon zest, flour, spices, baking powder, and salt.
- Heat the honey and sugar in a small pot on the stove until the sugar is melted and the honey is warm. Do not allow it to boil.
- Pour the hot honey over the flour mixture and stir or mix (in the stand mixer) until the batter is blended into a thick, sticky dough. It will be very firm.
- Divide the dough in two and put half into each prepared pan. Use a metal spoon to scrape the remaining dough out of the mixing bowl and add it to the rest.
- Using damp fingers (keep dipping them in water as needed), push and pat the dough into a 9" x 13" (23 x 33 cm) rectangle on each cookie sheet. Work quickly while the dough is still warm, as it gets harder to work with as it cools. This takes effort and muscle. Pinch off pieces of dough from the thicker spots and press them into the thinner spots until the rectangle is of even thickness. Pat the top smooth with damp fingertips. Dock the dough all over with a fork (poke the fork straight down through the batter until it touches the cookie tin, 1 to 2 inches apart, all over the dough rectangle). Trim off excess parchment paper so it sticks up no more than one inch (2.5cm) above the cookie dough.
- Allow the pans to rest at room temperature, covered with a clean dish towel, for two hours or up to overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Bake the cookie sheets for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating them halfway and using a spatula to press down any parts of the dough that have bubbled or bulged up. The edges of the dough should just be starting to brown.
- While the cookies are baking, whisk together the glaze ingredients.
- Brush the glaze all over the top of the two cookie rectangles as soon as they come out of the oven.
- While still warm, lift the cookie slabs from the cookie sheets using the parchment paper to hold onto, and transfer them onto a large cutting board. Cut the cookie slabs into 1" x 2" (2.5 x 5 cm) bars. You can trim off a thin strip from the outside edges first, if desired. Use a large, sharp knife and work quickly to cut the cookies while still warm, as they are hard to cut once they cool.
- Allow the cookies to cool.
- Store the cookies in an airtight, covered container. The are best if left for at least a week to soften and mellow the flavours, but need a minimum of one day in the container before they should be eaten.
- The cookies will keep for up to two months, in a sealed container at cool room temperature and up to six months in the freezer (age at room temperature for one week before freezing). If you're storing the cookies at room temperature and they get too hard, put a few wedges of apple or some orange peels into the container with them and after a few days they will have softened considerably.
- Make 8 dozen Basler Leckerli cookie bars (that sounds like a lot, but they are small and keep forever! (They freeze well, too).
Check out all the wonderful Christmas/holiday dishes and sweets prepared by fellow Eat the World members and share with #eattheworld. Click here to find out how to join and have fun exploring a country a month in the kitchen with us!
Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Glædelig Jul, Nisser, and Mormor Agnes’ Æbleskiver
Literature and Limes: Makowiec
Palatable Pastime: Danish Asier Pickles
Amy’s Cooking Adventures: Lebkuchenherzen (German Cookies)
Chipa by the Dozen: Pepperkaker (Norwegian Christmas Cookies)
Evelyne: Oliebollen, the Dutch Doughnut
Loreto and Nicoletta: Sandbakkelse, Norwegian Christmas Cookies
Simply Inspired Meals: Classic Christmas Spritz Cookies
A Day in the Life on the Farm: Bohemian Potato Salad
Making Miracles: Scottish Steak Pie
Margaret at Kitchen Frau: Basler Leckerli, Swiss Christmas cookies
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Check out my past ‘Eat the World’ Recipe Challenge posts:
- Ireland: Dublin Coddle (A tasty Sausage and Potato Stew)
- Thailand: Shrimp Laksa (Khung)
- Kenya: Maharagwe with Ugali (Red Beans with Cornmeal Slice)
- Sweden: Swedish Meatballs with Cream Gravy
- New Zealand: Classic Pavlova
- France: Axoa d’Espelette (A Simple Stew from the Basque Country)
- Argentina: Red Chimichurri Sauce
- India: Kerala Upma (Fluffy, Kerala Style Breakfast Upma Recipe)
- Poland: Polish Honey Cake
- Ethiopia: Four Ethiopian Recipes for a Fantastic Feast
- England: Gluten Free Fish and Chips and Mushy Peas
- Georgia: Charkhlis Chogi (Beets with Sour Cherry Sauce)
- Mexico: Cochinita Pibil Tacos (Pit Barbecued Pig to Make in Your Oven)
- Cambodia: Noum Kong (Cambodian Rice Flour Doughnuts)
- Israel: Cucumber, Feta, and Watermelon Salad
- Finland: Lohikeitto (Creamy Salmon, Potato, and Dill Soup)
- Puerto Rico: Piña Colada Cocktail
- Egypt: Fava Beans and Feta
- Ukraine: Buckwheat Kasha with Beef
- Portugal: Tuna and Sardine Pâtés