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A German Spice Cookie Recipe That Outlasted the Boyfriend It Came From

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I got the recipe for Basler Leckerli from my college boyfriend. He was from a very small village in Germany, about 10 minutes outside of Waldshut-Tiengen in Southern Germany. We dated my junior year of college, and starting with that year's first snowfall, he began to wax on nonstop about all the holiday cookies he was missing out on here in America.

Trying to earn points for being an awesome girlfriend (and always open to any excuse that ended with me baking cookies), I told him that if he got recipes from his mom, we'd spend the day baking. He followed through on his end and we spent a weekend on the project.

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Photo by James Ransom

First, we had to track down a few relatively obscure ingredients (we were in a small college town—no Whole Foods and only a Kroger to try to find our "exotic" marzipan and candied orange peel that wasn't bright green).

Then we tackled the baking: We made four different kinds of German cookies (plus my mom's recipe for gingersnaps, which is what I was eternally nostalgic for). He taught be how to blanch almonds to remove their skins, squeezing the small end to pop them free. I taught him that wine and baking are the perfect complements. His roommates were so pleased with the plethora of cookies that they didn't mind being banned from their kitchen for 24 hours.

Of the four traditional cookies that we made, the Basler Leckerli were by far my favorite, and the only recipe from that session that I still have. The recipe is in German (my limited German is just enough to remember how to bake them each year), with both splatters and handwritten conversions of weights to measurements from the days before I had a kitchen scale.

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Photo by James Ransom

I've made them almost every year since then around Christmas time, so about 7 years now. I know they were staples in my ex's family for years as well. I've been to Germany during Christmastime (my husband's sister lived there for a time) and was pleased to find all different versions of Basler Leckerli at the bakeries and Christmas markets.

Unfortunately, I don't know where my ex's mom got the recipe—it could have been handed down for generations, or simply from the back of a box of vanilla sugar! I'm almost curious enough to reach out and ask the history of it... but that's always a door better left unopened.

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Basler Leckerli

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Makes 4 dozen

Basler Leckerli

  • 250 grams honey
  • 250 grams sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 pinch ground ginger
  • 1 packet vanilla sugar (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 100 grams slivered almonds
  • 50 grams candied orange peel
  • 50 grams candied lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons kirschwasser (or brandy)
  • 500 grams flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 100 grams blanched almonds

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 200 grams sugar


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Tags: christmas cookies, spice cookies