I’m not really sure why these are called zitronenkuchen as they are more hazelnutty than lemony and they certainly aren’t cakey (though I do understand the Germans’ penchant for calling many things that aren’t particularly cakey “-kuchen”). I do know that I was introduced to them waaaaaaaaaay back in the middle ages when I was taking German lessons as a sprog and that they are incredibly delicious. I do not enjoy baking, so if I’m going to the hassle of baking a thing, that thing has got to be delicious.
They’re totally a family favourite for the holidays and the recipe in its current state is the result of a bunch of happy accidents that have happened over years of making them and the one I have stuck to for over 10 years.
This recipe makes…ummm…a lot of cookies. I got about 72 out of my most recent batch.
What you need:
- 3 cups of all-purpose flour
- 3 cups of confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground green cardamom
- 1 tsp ground mace
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 3 sticks of salted butter, at room temperature
- 3.5 cups of ground hazelnuts
- 3 eggs
- The juice and grated rind of two lemons
- 1 tsp vanilla
What you do:
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and spices, then cut in the butter and stir in 2.5 cups of the ground hazelnuts.
- In a food processor, grind the remaining cup of ground hazelnuts until they become a thick paste, almost like a nut butter. Whizz in the eggs, lemon rind, lemon juice and vanilla until combined and fluffy.
- Using a hand or stand mixer on low speed, slowly work the wet, nutty mixture into the dry, spicy mixture until it is all well combined. You can increase the speed once the danger of producing a flour + sugar cloud has passed.
- Cover the dough and chill it in the fridge over night.
- Once you’re ready to roll and cut the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Flour your surfaces, your rolling devices, cookie cutters and hands very, very well. Keep some more flour on hand for easy flouring as you work. This dough is very sticky. Much flouring is required to work it.
- Take a handful of dough and roll it out to about 1/4 in thickness.
- Cut into whatever shapes your little heart desires and arrange them on the cookies sheets with a good 1/2 inch between each cookie.
- Bake at 325 degrees for 25-27 minutes, rotating as necessary to accommodate the kookiness of your oven.
- Transfer to cooling racks and glaze (or not), as desired.
On Glazing: These cookies are great on their own, but the right glazes give them a nice finish (even if one’s glaze-application skills are bit rudimentary, like mine) and help hold them together for easier storage and gifting. For a white glaze, I mix together 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar with 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tbsp lemon juice. For a chocolate glaze, I melt 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and mix into them 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom and 1 tbsp sunflower oil.