I know them as zitronenkuchen, though it seems there are many things which go by that name and I’m not really sure why there’s an emphasis on the lemons in the nomenclature when the star of this little attraction is surely the abundance of hazelnuts. But I digress.
It’s certainly a fiddlier recipe than one who doesn’t bake should engage with, however the results are well worth the fiddling and I really only make them once a year so I daresay my I can afford to have my non-baking mind blown at that cost. This is another bastardized version of a classic recipe; I’ve added cardamom (because I have a small crush on the lemon/hazelnut/cardamom flavour combination), more lemon and a little twist in preparation which make them exactly the cookie I look forward to all year long.
What you need:
3.5 cups ground hazelnuts.
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 sticks of butter
8 cardamom pods
1 tsp. ground mace
1 tsp. ground ginger
Juice and grated rind of 2 lemons
Grind your cardamom pods. I use a mortar and pestle for this and discard the actual poddy bits, adding only the powedery interiors to the recipe. This can also be done (albeit, a wee bit less elegantly as with a mortar and pestle, but it works) by placing the pods between bits of wax paper or in a paper bag and running a rolling pin over them. One way or the other, please, please, please use cardamom pods. Using previously ground cardamom will result in cruel and unusual punishment up to and including having to listen to Englebert Humperdink tunes on repeat for the rest of your life. True story.
Combine the flour and sugar and spices, cutting in the butter once combined. You don’t have to be too meticulous about cutting the butter in as one might be with a pastry, but it needs to be in there. After doing a half-assed job of cutting the butter in add 2.5 cup of the ground nuts. Toss the rest of the nuts into (or back into, if you’re grinding your own) the food processor and grind some more. Grind until you’ve basically got a nut butter. That little step is going to take these cookies from something of sugar cookie consistency to the sublime decadence of shortbread and all of its melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Add the nut butter, eggs and lemon rind and juice. Blend with an electric hand blender until everything is happily amalgamated. With a spatula move the lot of it into a ball in the center of the bowl and chill until hard. That’s going to take a couple of hours so you might as well pour yourself a drink and setup with some good eye candy (I recommend Slant’s 100 Greatest Videos), then a book, then some sleep. Ok. Leaving them overnight is best.
This is how we chill in Canadia:
The rolling and the cutting are where things get fiddly. Because the cookie dough is very much like that of shortbread it will melt quickly with much handling and stick to anything it comes into contact with. As such the surface upon which they’ll be rolled and cut should be well-floured. Please bear in mind that this is not bread dough we’re working with and adding some flour is not going to compromise the integrity of the end result. So be generous; flour the table/counter, the rolling pins, the cookie cutters and yourself. It’s sticky. Sticky, sticky sticky and melty. Because it’s melty you’ll want to work in small batches, returning what you’re not rolling and cutting to the fridge.
The dough should be rolled out into 1/4 inch slabs, then cut with whichever cookie cutter shapes your little hearst desire. We used various stars and moons and butterflies and maple leaves. Having a chopstick on hand to remove bits of dough from the more detailed parts of cookie cutters is very handy.
After dough is cut it should be moved directly to a greased cookie sheet. This recipe makes a whole lot of cookies. Like, in the 72 piece range depending on how big the shapes one chooses are. As such, they’ve pretty much got to be baked in batches so an oven preheated to 350 degrees is required. Cookies will need to be baked at that temp for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.