If I told you that this honey pie is one of my all-time favourite cakes, you can only imagine how these must be my favourite cookies! In fact, these honey cookies (lebkuchen) are my favourite treat ever. This is the one thing I could literally eat every day for the rest of my life. And be very happy. And plumpy. =D
Soooo… honey cookies are actually not the same as gingerbread cookies, although they might resemble them. These cookies are simply packed with honey and spiced with cinnamon and orange zest. As simple as that, but together these two flavourings make a perfect winter perfume for any dessert. Although I consider a perfect cookie to be crispy and burst into dust of flour, sugar, spice and everything nice as you bite into them, these are the ones that are chewy and soft and… could not be more perfect.
Honey gives them most of their sweetness and flavour and I love how honey-y they are. They actually taste like something very homey, warm and welcoming, comforting and dunking them in a cup of warm milk will be the best part of your day, I guarantee! The key is to bake them at lower temperature and just until they firm up. They are soft right away and will remain so for days. If you were to store them and have them for up to a few weeks (what’s your secret to storing cookies rather them eating them all?), I suggest keeping them in a tin container.
Other than the amazing flavour which I could write about for hours more, these honey cookies hold a special place in my heart. They have never been missed out during our holiday baking and the recipe was always multiplied. And yes, by New Years they were all gone. But the best thing about them is the memories they bring. Of my family in the kitchen, a day or two before Christmas Eve, cutting out shapes, placing them on trays like on an assembly line, Christmas carols playing on the radio, me filled with joy and playfulness. These are one of the most wonderful memories, full of laughter, fondness, love, affection… and cookies. Perfect honey cookies that simply melt in your mouth.
I had the recipe written this whole time, but could not make them right for years, which was very frustrating for me. See, it’s not that I just wanted to eat my Mom’s honey cookies, I wanted to revive the feeling of my childhood their taste evokes. The flavour was nearly there, but I couldn’t get the right texture, their chewyness and softness. So I started earlier this year, determined to make them right. And I did it! These are my Mom’s honey cookies! And eating them suddenly makes me 10 years old again, throws me back into my old kitchen filled with loved ones carolling along and just like that – everything is fine and the world is back to being the happiest place!
preparation time: about 20 minutes, does not include and cutting out the shapes
baking time: 7-8 minutes, 160°C (320 F)
Ingredients for the cookie dough:
125 g honey
50 g unsalted butter
50 g granulated white sugar or vanilla scented sugar
25 g brown sugar
350 g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
zest of half orange (always use organic oranges for zesting and wash the skin nevertheless)
1 tsp baking soda (not baking powder)
1 whole egg, large
1. Put honey, butter and both kinds of sugar into a skillet and let it all melt on medium low heat. In the meantime, sift flour into a large bowl. Add cinnamon and orange zest and combine those briefly. Make a well in the centre.
2. When the mixture of honey, butter and sugar starts to bubble gently, remove from the stove and pour it into the flour mixture. Sprinkle baking soda on top and let it sit like that for about 2 minutes.
3. Using an electric mixer fitted with paddle or swirl attachments, start mixing the dough on low speed. After the flour has absorbed most of the liquid and the mixture has cooled enough for you to handle it with your hands, add a whole egg. Continue mixing on low speed or knead shortly with your hands just until the dough comes together. It will be very soft and slightly sticky, but should detach from the sides of the bowl.
4. Flour your working surface lightly and preheat the oven to 160°C/320 F. There is no need for cooling the dough. In fact, the warmer it is, the easier it will be to work with.
5. Divide the dough into portions so it is easier to work with and roll it out to about 4 mm (0,6 in) thickness. Don’t make them too thin, these are not crispy cookies. If you are using cookie cutters of different shapes and will be rerolling the dough several times, I suggest rolling it between 2 sheets of parchment paper. That way the dough will not absorb any extra flour, which might make the cookies tougher than the first batch. Cut out the cookies and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Give them space because they will spread and puff up as they bake.
6. Bake them for about 7-8 minutes, depending on their size and thickness. Mine baked for 7,5 minutes exactly, but as always, check them about a minute earlier to see how they progress. They should be soft to touch, but should detach form the baking sheet easily and be slightly golden on the bottom. Place them on a wire rack to cool, but don’t wait too long – eat them warm and enjoy with a glass of milk or cocoa.
Happy baking and I hope you will make your own memories making this wonderful recipe!