Spice up your holidays with Dorie Greenspan’s leckerli

Warm spices, honey, sugar, sliced almonds and candied citrus zest laquered in a Grand Marnier-infused glaze make Dorie Greenspan's Swiss leckerli the perfect holiday treat!

Author Dorie Greenspan’s prodigious new cookbook is “Dorie’s Cookies.” This isn’t any ordinary cookie book. It’s a tome — an encyclopedia of one baker’s obsession with cookies, featuring over 300 different recipes to suit every occasion imaginable. “Once you start thinking of a cookie as having infinite possibilities, it just comes to you,” says Greenspan. The cookie-obsessed will find everything they’re craving in her new book. Published just in time for the holidays, you’ll find recipes like this one for Swiss leckerli.

2000-dorie-greenspan-cookies-coverLeckerli is a kind of spice cookie, in the gingerbread and pain d’épices (French spice cake) family, but with deep roots in Switzerland. In fact, even in the Alsatian region of France, where leckerli is a tradition, it’s called leckerli de Bâle, giving recognition to its city of origin, Bâle, or Basel. The story goes that leckerli, made from a heavy dough of honey, sugar, candied zest and almonds, baked and glazed, debuted in the mid-1400s. The glaze, however, was a laggard — it didn’t show up until the eighteenth century.

Like pain d’épices, leckerli, which is associated with Christmas but made all year-long, can be one thing or the other. It can be somewhat hard (although it should never be dry) or it can be soft (mine is softish and chewy); it can be chockablock or lightly studded with candied orange or lemon or citron peel or a combination (I use candied orange peel and some fresh lemon zest); and it can be very spicy or just a little spicy (mine’s just spicy enough). What doesn’t vary is the fact that it’s baked in one big piece and then glazed before it is cut into smaller pieces.

I love recipes with history, but I also love recipes with leeway, and this one’s got both. Have fun with it, and if you want to make it part of your family’s holiday tradition, make it your own: Decide on the spices you like best, the kind of candied peel and the size of the pieces.

And if history, fabulous flavor and a touch of exoticism aren’t enough to make this a holiday stalwart, there’s convenience: Lecklerli is meant to “age,” so you can make it up to two weeks ahead — a joy during a busy time.”

try these recipes for her savory rosemary-Parmesan shortbread cookies and holiday spice leckerli on the Good Food blog.

All photos by Davide Luciano