Sunday, November 4, 2012

Simple "Aachener Printen" cookies, this time with figs and without anis

Aachener Printen, Christmas cookies, an old German tradition

The pre-Christmas hustle is taking up speed and density while the speed of moving around and the speed of service is going down. The streets are full of shoppers, shops are full of Christmas goods, products, decorations and gifts. The shoppers are carrying their coats under their arms or in the shopping carts to prolong or rather enable to balance the temper and temperature while the choosing of the things to buy and the wait at the check-out. No Christmas carols yet.

Last year I baked over a thousand Christmas cookies. This year could be more or a lot less since I am spending my weekend time on studying for an exam in December. I promised myself that I must manage at least some. Home made cookies are a part of the December celebration.

I was looking to widen my repertoir with some new cookies and happened on Lebkuchen which are normally thick soft cookies with a strong anis taste and smell. That´s how the Lebkuchen stand at the market outside the office smells. Most of the times I don´t enjoy anis. I am pretty sure everyone has some ingredient that they prefer to leave out of their diet. Anis is one of mine.

That little detail wasn´t going to stop my experiment with Lebkuchen. Aachener Printen is a type of Lebkuchen that gets an image "printed" on the cookie. My version is not that sophisticated, setting more worth to the inside than outside. :-) I took another liberty to change the standard recipe by adding butter. The original way of making the Aachener Printen is without fat. The recipe has been modified from one in the magazine of "essen und trinken" (I added figs, butter, changed the amount of flour, baking soda, left out pottasche, hirschhornsalz, kandis sugar). I am aware that my adjustments may be against the old traditions, but hey, all cooking is a big experiment.

Simple Aachener Printen, getting the name from the Aachen town in Germany

Aachener Printen with figs and without anis
250g honey
50g sugar
0.5 dl water
80g butter
a pinch of salt
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground kardamom
1 tsp ground cloves
1 egg, beaten
450g flour
1.5 tsp sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
2-3 large dried figs, finely chopped 
1 tbsp starch

In a pot bring the honey, sugar and water to boil. Remove from the heat. Add the butter and let cool. Mix in the spices, salt and the egg. Combine the baking soda with the flour separately and the chopped figs with starch. Then mix the figs with the flour and add to the rest. Combine with a spatula and leave to rest for a few hours in the fridge. The dough should be quite firm, add some flour if it feels too soft. (You should be able to form a ball of the dough without it sticking to hands.)

Set the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Spread flour on the working surface to avoid sticking. Roll the dough to a 0.5cm thickness and cut strips of ca 2cm width. Cut lengthwise into the length you like. Place on the baking tray fitted with baking paper. Bake for ca 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the oven not to burn the cookies.

Aachener Printen with figs and without anis