This year I did not prepare Christmas cookies, but know I really wished to prepare something special, something from my town (Basel, Switzerland) where it is popular in bakeries and even grocery stores.
I’ve already prepared Leckerli, or better in Swiss German “Läckerli” or “Läggerli”, several times, but it was long time ago as I prepared them. Once I also used this recipe to build a cute gingerbread house.
This year I’ve revised my old recipe and I’ve decided to propose these cookies into small bites for longer pleasure. I love to take one, let turn soft in the mouth and then melt!
These cookies are dense, quite dry and wonderfully flavored with honey (I used the honey of our bees!), spices, citrus and almonds. They are something like “hard gingerbread” combined with candied fruits; no candied ginger is included in this traditional recipe. You are free to add some if you wish!
Basler Läckerli date back to the 15th century as they were created at the time of the Basel Council (1431 to 1449) to sustain the assembled church dignitaries. The word “Läkerli” comes from “lecker” ant it meas “delicious” in German and “-li” is a diminutive suffix in the Swiss-German language.
Homemade Basler Leckerli - Swiss Gingerbread from Basel
In a heavy pot, bring honey with sugar to boil. Remove from the heat.
Add all the other ingredients except flour and baking powder. Mix well.
Add half of the flour and stir to combine the hand mixer provided with dough hooks. Now add the rest of the flour and the baking powder, work with the hooks until well combined and the dough does not stick to the finger (be careful, it is hot). If necessary, add more flour.
Turn the dough on a well-floured working surface and knead well.
Sprinkle the dough with flour (in this way the dough will not stick on the rolling pin) and roll it out the dough out on parchment foil placed directly in the baking try. It should be about 6 mm thick. As the dough is very hard, it is easier if somebody helps you to hold the tray and the parchment foil.
Let sit for at least one hour or best overnight.
Bake for 15-18 minutes at 220°C in a preheated oven (or 200°C if using a convection oven).
In the meanwhile, prepare the glaze: heat sugar with water until the sugar is melt, let simmer until the syrup turns thick and you see that at the borders of the pot the first crystals begins to form (this takes about five minutes).
Remove from the oven and immediately cut the dough (I used the pizza cutter) rectangular pieces of about 3,5X5 cm (for the standard size) or, as in my case if you prefer into 1,5X1,5cm bites.
Brush the still warm Läckerli with the hot glaze. At this point, the syrup should built crystals and a wonderful white shining cover will glaze the Läckerli.
As soon as the glaze is turning white, separate the Läckerli again, let cool down and dry out completely.
Store in airtight container up to 6 month.
Glaze (Modern variation): this replace the step “7” above
250 g powdered sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons “Kirsch”
In while the cookies are in the oven, combine powdered sugar with water and Kirsch. If necessary, add one more tablespoon Kirsch (or water). Stir until well-combined and very thick.
Each year we grow some pumpkin on or compost and just before the winter comes we collect them and we keep the in the cold cellar for the winter.
A few days ago, we needed some salad or veggies to complete or dinner but one of my guest had a dental surgery and only soft ingredients could be considered. At once, I remembered my pumpkin and I imagined that this would be perfect for this purpose.
I’ve also thought a lot about the way to serve this and how I can transform this in a very special dish.
This had be great in taste and appealing for the eye!
From another recipe (that at that moment I could not find again) I remembered a wonderful dressing which I loved so much and which could be used for this recipe.
The topping is crunchy, and except of the guest who had some dental problems, the caramelized nuts would add taste and texture to the melt in the mouth pumping slices.
For the arrangement I found some mini bowls (in effect candle holders! ) and I began to arrange the slices in the small dishes like flowers. I’ve placed the remaining slices in a separate bowl; after pouring the dressing over them I waited for my guests!
We didn’t expect so much success with this, the remaining had gone quickly and probably I’ve could have made the double quantity!
At the end, the remaining sauce at the bottom of the dish had been enjoyed with some homemade rustic bread.
I will make this again for sure many times!
Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Lime and Herbs Dressing
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or winter savoury (winter savoury is my choice as I have this in the garden), finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon honey
Salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) and pepper to taste
50 g sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
50 g walnuts or pecan,
1 pinch chili powder
1 big pinch salt
Additional olive oil, to taste
Peel the pumpkin, remove the seeds and cut into ½ cm slices.
Place the slices in a big bowl and toss with olive oil.
Arrange the slices in a baking tray overlapping them slightly.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C until the pumpkin is soft and the borders begins to turn brown. This takes about 20-30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and set aside.
In the meanwhile combine all the ingredients for the dressing
Heat slowly the sugar with lime juice in small non-sticky skillet until sugar melts and it begins to take color. Add nuts, chili powder and salt stirring to coat them well. Let roast for 1 minute. Pour the mixture on a baking sheet and let cool down completely. After this time, chop to 1/2 cm pieces.
Pour the dressing over the pumpkin or place the pumpkin into single portions dishes and pour the dressing over them. Let marinate at least 30 minutes.
Just before serving, drizzle some more olive oil and sprinkle with the caramelized nuts. Serve with a slice of rustic bread
Atole is a Mexican corn beverage drink that is served since Aztec times during festivities. At this time the plain atole was prepared by cooking maize (corn) with water and lime until soft; then ground and cooked until thickened.
If milk is added, it is called atole de leche and if also chocolate is added, this preparation is called champurrado.
Other variation include the bark of cacao (atole de cascara), honey (atole de agua miel), red chile (atole de chile) or the native brown sugar called piloncillo (atole de pinolei).
The addition of chocolate came probably from the Mayan culture and until now in Yucatan (old Mayan territories) they serve a thick chocolate atole perfumed with honey, black pepper and allspice called tanchcua.
As you see there are many different ways to prepare this beverage, I will give you my version; however, you may adapt it to your taste!
For the decoration of the picture I used the “muñequitas” which I bought in Mexico almost 30 years ago in “San Cristobal de La Casas” (Chiapas) and which we still keep for the pleasure of our eyes and souvenirs.
Champurrado - Mexican Hot Chocolate with Corn Flour
In the south of Switzerland, in the Italian speaking part of Country a small village is waiting to be admired by thousands and thousands of guest every year. It’s a very special village, placed at the border of Lugano Lake (also called Ceresio) and it southern exposition makes growing of cactus and palms possible.
From here you can walk up to the San Salvatore Mountain, but you can also simply sit down in a restaurant enjoying the panorama and the milk climate.
A small walk trough the small road of the village, up to the church should not be missed-
Here a few pictures of this place during Christmas time.
A few years ago on Crete a Greek friend offered us this wonderful cake and she gently shared her recipe. I still had the notes and finally now I decided to write this in my blog. Her recipe is a sugar-reduced one, as most of the recipes requires double quantity of syrup, I also noticed that she reduced the fat of the cream adding beaten egg white. If you don’t feel safe eating raw eggs please skip it or double the cream quantity!
Perhaps you noticed that the name “Ekmek Kataifi” doesn’t sound Greek: historical this recipe was a bread pudding, created during the Ottoman empire and served during the Ramadan time combined with kaimak (a creamy cheese similar to mascarpone).
Note: sometimes you in Turkish shops you can buy already roasted kataifi in the shape of a round cake; in this cake skip the first two steps.
Ekmek Kataifi – Greek Pastry Topped with Custard and Whipped Cream
1 egg white, from very fresh egg (skip and double the quantity of heavy cream if preferred)
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
roasted slivered almonds or pistachios, for serving
8 candied cherries (optional)
Preheat the oven to 160 °C.
To begin making the base. Make the Kataifi pastry as fluffy as possible; spread it on the Springform (of about 24 cm) and brush with the melted butter. Toast the Kataifi strands until golden brown, this takes about 30-40 minutes.
In the meanwhile, prepare the syrup by boiling the sugar with the water in a small saucepan for about 5 minutes. You can also add some mastic powder. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and spoon the hot syrup over the toasted pastry base.
Combine semolina, cornstarch and half of the sugar in small bowl; whisk in egg yolks and a few tablespoons of cold milk; whisk to remove any lumps. In another pot (or simply in the microwave) heat the milk with the rest of the sugar. Before this comes to boil, remove this from the heat and add it to the egg mixture stirring constantly; Place the saucepan over medium heat and let the cream thicken, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and let cool down until lukewarm.
Spread the custard evenly over Kataifi. Let it cool to room temperature, cover with cling film and put in the fridge. Leave best overnight as so that the tastes will bind better.
Make the whipped cream just before serving: in a clean bowl beat egg white into stiff peaks, add sugar and beat again until glossy. In another bowl, preferably chilled, beat chilled cream. Gently fold beaten egg whites into the whipped cream and spread over the cold cream.
Sprinkle with roasted slivered almonds, top with cherry and serve best with a cup of real Greek coffee!
I hope you know quinces, if not, I wish you get some and try to prepare this divine preparation which can be prepared in advance and which can be part of menu in both sweet and savory winter dishes in the coming festive days.
“Dulce de membrillo” or simply “membrillo” (Spanish name of quince paste or quince cheese) is a sweet, sticky, very thick jelly made with quinces, and is a typical dessert eaten with cheese in Spain (as the name), but it is also wonderful served for breakfast on toasted bread.
This year we got a very mild autumn and until now, the temperature did not reach the freezing point.
At the beginning of October, we collected most of the quinces, but some of them were too high for the harvest. This week the last quinces fall down, I collected them, and I knew I had to preserve them as soon as possible.
I remembered that I have already prepared quince paste, but this time I wanted to use less sugar and add more lemon flavor. I also decided to blend them only after turn reddish; it is easier for me to reduce the liquid in this way.
As membrillo contains a lot of sugar, it may be kept in the fridge for a long time. However, as I in my recipe I reduced the quantity of sugar, I suggest to keep it well wrapped in the fridge for about 2 weeks, if you want to keep it longer, I suggest to freeze it.
Place the sugar in a heavy pot add grated lemon zest, the juice of the lemon and the water. Stir. Place the pot to very low heat.
Immediately peal the first quince, remove the cored and dice them. Add the prepared quince to the sugar mix and stir. Continue to prepare the quinces add them one by one to the mixture. You will see that the quinces will release their liquid-
Let this simmer slowly stirring form time to time to reduce the liquid; don’t let it stick and burn at the bottom. Most of the quinces will turn mush and after about 1 to 1½ hours, the mixture will begin to turn orange-reddish.
When the liquid is mostly reduced, turn it to puree using the hand blender.
Continue cooking stirring frequently with a wooden spatula, until the paste becomes very thick and has a deep orange color.
There several ways to check if the paste is ready to be poured in the molds:
Draw the wooden spoon along the bottom of the saucepan: it should leave a trail and the quince mixture will stick to the spoon.
The mixture is thick enough to hold the spoon upright
The paste should easily come off from the sides of the pan.
The paste is thick enough if you are able to see the base of the pan when you draw the wooden spoon through the mixture.
Scrape the paste into your prepared tin (I use simply clear foil) and level the top. I also used silicon molds, which worked perfectly for this. Leave to set for at least a day in a warm place, then wrap and store airtight in the fridge.