Say it with love...

Homemade Marzipan and LebKuchen

On Saturday I was happily up to my elbows in homemade marzipan and biscuits.
Unfortunately my computer contracted the equivalent of a human viral plague and refused to even load windows, hence why I didn't post on Saturday. So, some headaches and muchos cash later, my computer has been nursed back to health.

So without too much delay, on with the Christmas recipe celebrations!
One of my many treasured Christmas memories was as a small child, hiding under my grandmothers coffee table and stealing lebkuchen from a dainty china dish. As you can see, nothing stands in my way when it comes to food. Nothing much has changed since then and I still adore lebkuchen, and call them liebkuchen (love cakes). They are incredible little biscuits, containing no sugar, but a large amount of syrup which makes it a very sticky dough, which magically thickens on standing after 1 and a half hours at room temperature.

Watching cookies bake is for me, a magical process. I am fascinated at how they change and grow and rise, while perfuming the air with cinnamin and spices. Dont be fooled by these biscuits in particular, they will cook in about 8 mins. You want them to be golden to medium brown, and they willl be soft biscuits.

Lebkuchen (about 30-40 single biscuits)
60ml butter
175ml syrup
200g cake flour
5ml bicarb
2.5ml ground ginger
1 ground cardamom
2.5ml vanilla powder
2.5ml ground cinnamon
1.5ml ground cloves
30g mixed peel, finely chopped
12.5ml milk
12g cake flour (for rolling)
Raspberry jam
125g dark chocolate

Melt the butter over a low heat, add the syrup and bring to the boil.
Remove from heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
Sift in the dry ingredients. Finely chop the mixed peel and add milk.
Add to the mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth and cover.
Leave to stand at room temperature for 1 and a half hours. The mixture will become thicker on standing.
Turn onto a floured surface. Kneading very lightly, incorporating enough flour until it loses its stickiness.
Roll out to 8mm thickness.
Cut out with desired cutter: traditionally we have squares, or hearts.
Place on lightly greased trays.

*You can gently push holes in the cakes with a wooden spoon and fill with jam. Or leave plain and when cooked, sandwhich two together with raspberry jam. *

Bake at 180°C for 8 to 10 minutes. leave to cool completely.

1 Coat a jam filled biscuit in dark chocolate. When chocolate has set, pipe one white chocolate dot on top.

2 Sandwhich two biscuits together with warmed raspberry jam. Coat in dark chocolate.
When chocolate has set, pipe two white chocolate dots on top.

3 Spread a thin layer or raspberry jam on one side of a biscuit.
 Place a (1mm) marzipan disc (of the same shape as the liebkuchen) on the jammed side.
Sandwhich another jammed biscuit on top. Coat in dark chocolate.
When chocolate has set, pipe three white chocolate dots on top.

This marzipan is fantastic. because it is homemade you can vary the thickness to your liking. I made mine a little little thinner, to a nice paste consistency to make spreading on the biscuits easier. You will need a sugar thermometer to ensure the temperature of this sugar syrup reaches 125°C. It will reach 90°C quite quickly, and take ages to reach 105, and then jump quite quickly up. So watch all the time.
I swear by digital thermometers, after a bit of a fiasco with a candy thermometer and some incredibly sticky nougat I have banned my candy thermometer to the back of the cupboard (I seem to do this a lot...) It told me it had reached 120 and it was lying.. Anyway. Do not freak out when your sugar syrup crystallizes when it settles over the almonds. Its going to do this naturally. Its not your fault. Its meant to happen (no intervention from pastry police needed). I only used about half of the marzipan for a double quantity of Lebkuchen, so feel free to halve the recipe.

REAL Marzipan 
450g sugar
140g water
60g glucose
250g (skinned) almonds
Spirit (Kirsch, Rum etc) about 50-75ml.

Warm the nuts and coarsely grind them in a mixer.

To skin almonds:
If using skinned almonds, blanch them in hot boiling water for 1 minute and then drain.
Pour over some cold water and the skins will shrink off when rubbed.

Make sure the almonds are very dry before grinding.

Cook the sugar, glucose and water to 125°C.
Pour the hot syrup over the ground nuts and then pour the mixture onto a lightly oiled marble slab
(I let it cool in a lightly greased bowl).
allow to cool to room temperature (18°C)
Depending on the size of your food processor, divide the sugared almonds into 2 or 4 batches to process.

Grind and add a small amount of spirit to reach the thickness you desire (rolling will be firmer than for shaping).

Roll out to 12mm thick and cool completely.
Cut into desired shapes.

For lebkuchen: 
Roll to 1mm thick and cut with the same cutters used for the biscuits.
Leave under a moist cloth so they don't dry out.

Marzipan squares:
Roll the marzipan 1 to 1.5cm thick and cut into squares.
Dip into dark chocolate and leave to set.
Decorate with flaked almonds or anything your heart desires.