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Swiss Gingerbread Cookies: A Festive Delight for All Seasons

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Swiss gingerbread cookies, known as Leckerli in Switzerland, are a beloved treat that combines the warm spices of ginger, cinnamon, and cloves with the sweetness of honey and candied citrus peel. These cookies are not only delicious but also deeply rooted in Swiss tradition, often enjoyed during Christmas and other festive occasions. In this article, we will explore the cultural significance of Swiss gingerbread cookies, discuss the key ingredients that give them their distinctive flavor, and provide you with a step-by-step recipe to create these delightful cookies at home.

Cultural Significance and Usage

Swiss gingerbread cookies hold a special place in Swiss culinary culture, particularly in the regions of Basel and Aargau where they are traditionally made. They are often given as gifts during Christmas and are a staple at holiday markets (Weihnachtsmärkte) throughout Switzerland. The cookies are cherished for their spiced aroma, chewy texture, and festive decorations, making them a favorite among both children and adults alike. Swiss gingerbread cookies exemplify the warmth and conviviality of Swiss hospitality, especially during the holiday season.

Key Ingredients for Swiss Gingerbread Cookies

To make authentic Swiss gingerbread cookies, gather the following ingredients:

For the Cookies:

  • All-Purpose Flour: 2 cups (250g)
  • Ground Almonds: 1/2 cup (60g)
  • Ground Cinnamon: 1 teaspoon
  • Ground Cloves: 1/4 teaspoon
  • Ground Ginger: 1 teaspoon
  • Baking Powder: 1/2 teaspoon
  • Salt: 1/4 teaspoon
  • Unsalted Butter: 1/2 cup (115g), softened
  • Granulated Sugar: 1/2 cup (100g)
  • Honey: 1/2 cup (170g), warmed slightly
  • Candied Citrus Peel: 1/4 cup (40g), finely chopped
  • Egg: 1 large
  • Powdered Sugar: For dusting (optional)

For the Glaze (Optional):

  • Powdered Sugar: 1 cup (120g)
  • Fresh Lemon Juice: 2-3 tablespoons
  • Water: 1-2 tablespoons

Recipe for Swiss Gingerbread Cookies

Step 1: Prepare the Dough

  1. Combine Dry Ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ground almonds, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Cream Butter and Sugar: In a large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add Honey and Egg: Gradually add the warmed honey and beat until well combined. Then, beat in the egg until incorporated.
  4. Mix in Dry Ingredients: Gradually add the dry ingredient mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing until a soft dough forms.
  5. Add Candied Citrus Peel: Fold in the chopped candied citrus peel until evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Step 2: Shape and Bake the Cookies

  1. Preheat Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Roll Out Dough: On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch (6mm) thickness.
  3. Cut into Shapes: Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes such as rectangles or diamonds, traditional for Leckerli, or use holiday-themed cookie cutters for festive shapes.
  4. Place on Baking Sheets: Transfer the cut-out cookies to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch (2.5cm) apart.
  5. Bake: Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly golden brown.

Step 3: Optional Glaze

  1. Prepare Glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, lemon juice, and water until smooth and glossy.
  2. Glaze Cookies: Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the baking sheets before transferring them to a wire rack. While still warm, brush the tops of the cookies with the glaze using a pastry brush.

Step 4: Serve and Enjoy

  1. Cool Completely: Allow the cookies to cool completely to allow the glaze to set.
  2. Decorate (Optional): If desired, sprinkle powdered sugar over the cookies for a snowy effect before serving.

Tips for Perfect Swiss Gingerbread Cookies

  • Chill Dough: For easier handling, chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before rolling and cutting.
  • Storage: Store cooled cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week. They also freeze well for longer storage.
  • Variations: Experiment with adding chopped nuts or dried fruits to the dough for added texture and flavor.

Serving Suggestions

  • Enjoy with Coffee or Tea: Serve Swiss gingerbread cookies alongside hot coffee, tea, or mulled wine for a cozy winter treat.
  • Gift Idea: Package the cookies in decorative boxes or bags tied with ribbon for a thoughtful homemade gift during the holiday season.

Conclusion

Swiss gingerbread cookies, or Leckerli, are a delightful representation of Swiss culinary tradition, cherished for their spicy-sweet flavor and festive appeal. By following this recipe, you can recreate the warmth and joy of Swiss gingerbread cookies in your own kitchen, whether as a treat for your family or as a gift for friends. With their aromatic spices, chewy texture, and optional glaze, Swiss gingerbread cookies are sure to bring smiles and holiday cheer to all who enjoy them, making them a beloved part of Swiss cuisine year-round.

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Written by Robert Zelesky

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