I was going to make my lebkuchen cookies this year but it looks to be a warm one this Christmas. Yes, yes, lucky us, hey … with our summery Christmas
Except that those of us with European heritage get a little out of sorts with our love of traditional Christmas fare. I try to find a balance. Unless we have one of our crazy unexpected cold blasts at Christmas (last year we had mega hail that destroyed many a garden), I usually make a Christmas dessert that blends tradition with something light and summery.
Most years I make Torroncino ice cream to serve with a slice of Panettone or Pandoro. It is both easy to make and loved by all. It also brings together two pillars of an Italian Christmas … Panettone (or Pandoro) and Torrone (nougat). A rich but light semifreddo style gelato is just perfect with Panettone. It is quite traditional to hollow out the Panettone and fill with gelato, freeze, and then slice it to serve. Perfect.
This year, there may just be some competition for the much-loved Torroncino. My love of German Christmas cookies and Stöllen and … is just as fierce as my love of traditional Italian Christmas sweets. I got my jar of Lebkuchen spice on the weekend and did not want to lose a day before using it. That heady blend of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, is powdered Christmas
We had a 37°C scorcher yesterday so it was the perfect opportunity to make a Lebkuchen semifreddo. I love spice in gelato … it adds warmth and zing against the smooth, creamy coolness of the gelato.
It is sensational. A little fresh orange zest and almond extract counter the spice perfectly. You could finely chop a whole candied orange or some candied orange peel, if you like, and add that to the mix. I prefer the fresh orange zest as it won’t affect the texture and it adds a fresh hint of orange and not a sugary accent along with textural bits.
Serve it on its own or with a Lebkuchen cookie on the side, it makes a simple, but Christmassy dessert. It would also be lovely with a dark chocolate ganache sauce. Well, duh, everything is lovely with a dark chocolate ganache sauce, isn’t it?
For a richer cookies and cream version, you could chop up a few Lebkuchen cookies and fold them through the semifreddo before freezing. Being a semifreddo style gelato, it never sets hard and is perfectly creamy and lush straight from the freezer.
I think it would go rather well with a Panettone too, bringing together my love of all German and Italian Christmas traditions.
If you can’t find prepared Lebkucken spice blend, I have some information and links here for making your own.
I hope you enjoy it too!
Serves 6 / Makes 850 grams
75 grams brown sugar
50 grams white sugar
35 millilitres water
4 egg yolks
2 egg whites
500 grams cream (35% – 45% fat), chilled
7 grams (3 teaspoons) Lebkuchen spice (see this post for more on this spice mix)
2 – 3 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (about 1 medium orange)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Optional: 2 – 3 Lebkuchen biscuits, chopped into chunks
Combine the brown and white sugars and water in a saucepan over a low-medium heat. Let the sugar dissolve and bring to the boil. Do not stir. Place the egg whites in a bowl nearby. Have the egg yolks ready in a separate bowl.
When the syrup has begun to boil watch it carefully. Insert the candy thermometer in the syrup and wait until it reaches 115℃. As you do this, beat the egg whites until they reach soft peak stage only. When the syrup is ready, pour half of it in a thin and steady stream into the egg whites, as you continue to beat them on high-speed. Set the remaining syrup aside, off the heat for now. Continue beating the egg whites until they are glossy. Set the meringue aside.
Return the syrup to the heat if required, just to melt it a little (it may start to form a skin and set if it cools). Beat the egg yolks. Pour the remaining syrup into the egg yolks in a thin steady stream as you beat them on high-speed. Continue beating until the egg yolk mixture is light, tripled in volume, and has cooled. In warm weather, or simply if you prefer, set the bowl in a larger bowl with an ice bath. It will help to cool the egg mixture more quickly.
Make sure the cream is chilled. Place the cream in a large bowl. Add the orange zest and almond extract. Whisk until thickened slightly and the cream forms soft peaks. Do not over-whisk the cream.
Gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the cream. While you can be a little heavy-handed, you still want to keep the lightness of all that air we’ve beaten into the eggs. Finally, gently fold in the meringue until no streaks remain.
If you wish to make a cookies and cream version, fold through the chopped Lebkuchen before adding the italian meringue.
Place into an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve. If you wish to serve it sliced, place in to a lined mold, cover and freeze. Unmold on to a serving dish, slice and serve immediately. This particular semifreddo is very soft and creamy and will not keep its molded shape for long.
Serve on its own or accompanied by Lebkuchen biscuits.