December 16, 2009

Kitchen Fail: Lebkuchen

In the spirit of sharing this holiday season, I've decided to share the story of one of my very earliest Kitchen Fails. When I was maybe fifteen, I was home on holiday break from boarding school, and I decided that it would be a lovely idea to bake some lebkuchen for my mother and stepfather in order to spread some Christmas cheer.

Full disclosure: I probably also decided to do this because I had annoyed them in some way, and figured that asking them to buy me the ingredients for cookies that I would then bake them would somehow repair the damage.

I'm not sure how I came across the idea for lebkuchen. My gut tells me that it was mentioned in one of the millions of movies I used to watch when I was home on break, although I can't for the life of me think of a movie I would have watched that would have featured a German Christmas theme.

Either way, I googled "lebkuchen," and came up with some sketchy website with an equally sketchy recipe that, I would learn later, did not differentiate between the ingredients needed for the cookies and the ingredients needed for the icing. Sure, I should have suspected something when I saw flour and sugar listed again at the end of the recipe, but...well, I didn't. Mistake number one.

Ingredients secure and recipe printed out, I set about baking. The wet ingredients portion of the recipe called for honey, molasses, and egg, which made a fairly...wet mixture. What turned out to be the icing portion of the recipe called for water and lemon juice, which made the mixture even wetter. Mistake number two.

I began to stir in the dry ingredients, adding both the brown sugar and the flour that the cookie portion of the recipe called for and the confectioner's sugar that the icing portion called for. Mistake number three.

I added the spices and set about really combining the ingredients, only to discover that the dough was far wetter than I felt cookie dough should be. To fix it, I added about a cup more flour in the hopes that it would balance out in some way. Mistake number four.

Once I had the dough to what felt like the right consistency, I rolled it out, cut it, and baked it. Then I served the cookies, not noticing that they were decidedly free of icing, despite the fact that the lebkuchen I had seen on TV (or wherever) had definitely been shiny and delicious-looking. Mistake number five.

Actually, serving the cookies counts as a mistake, too. So that puts us at six mistakes. Why? Because when my loving stepfather bit into the lebkuchen, he made a face (as any sane person would), and made some noises, and managed to choke out "dry." I tried one, found that the cookies were about the consistency of dog biscuits, and ran away.

The moral of the story? Well, there are two. First, everyone will make stupid mistakes in the kitchen, like icing the lebkuchen "internally," as I did. Second, when you see an ingredient listed twice in one recipe's ingredient list, stop and ask yourself why.

Here's a great lebkuchen recipe, that, blessedly, differentiates between "cookies" and "icing."

Happy Holidays, darlings.

1 comment:

  1. i ate so much lebkuchen over in hamburg i thought i was never gonna run out of varieties =D