This post is dedicated to all our grandmothers.
I lost both my grandmothers in the last 4 years. I miss them so much. I miss the way my Grandmother Baker used to come into the kitchen with her adorable silk robe and stand at the stove, cooking bacon and eggs for everyone. I miss the way she looked at me, with big loving eyes. I miss her bubbly, easy laugh and the little stutter she had when she spoke. She was soft and you could feel the kindness of her heart.
My Grandmother Dunkelberger, or Grandma D, was a sharper, more opinionated influence. She was lovably stubborn and colorful. She loved with her whole heart and protected those she loved with a fierceness. She had an uncanny insight and a iron resilience. I miss her laugh, her stories, her advice and her letters. I miss the way she said “I love you” with conviction.
Memories are beautiful, but intangible. Sometimes , if I close my eyes, I can almost hear my grandmothers laughing, or see them sitting across from me, or feel myself in their houses. But these are only brief moments in my mind. What makes me feel most connected to these wonderful women is the hand-me-down kitchen ware I have from their kitchens that reminds me of them. A silver spoon, a casserole dish, a coffee mug.
Both of my grandmother’s were great cooks who took pride in providing loved ones with their favorite foods. Cookies were a specialty for both, and they knew exactly the ones we would request. Now, when I make cookies to share with friends or family, I feel connected to my grandmothers. The same action with the same intent, to show love to the people who are important.
Recently, my friend Carly lost her grandmother. Carly is so thoughtful, and I’m so lucky to call her a friend. She asked me if I would like some kitchenware from her grandmother’s kitchen, and gave me several things. Things with memories and laughs and love. You can almost feel it, you know? When I got home and put the dishes away in their space, I knew I had to have Carly over for some food to show her some love. And, in the name of grandmas, we would need some cookies.
That’s Carly’s hand, dunking these delicious cookies mid shot. What a great night it was! Her grandmother’s gorgeous dishes, put to use in a new home. Their first action? To show love and appreciation to a friend. What’s better, this was the second time I made these cookies. Another amazing friend, Nancy, asked me to make Lebkuchen for her book club as a tribute to the book they read. I loved the cookie in it’s traditional form and knew it would be a new favorite, in my house, especially with a few me updates. Nancy is such a wonderful thoughtful person (I’m quite lucky in my friends, as you can see!), and also is a grandma! Her children and grandchildren have such a wonderful woman to fill that role in their lives.
Lebkuchen are a traditional German cookie, I’m sure made by grandmothers for generations and enjoyed by their families for just as long. I spiced them slightly differently and added a pink glaze. They are crunchy and spicy, perfect for the morning, afternoon, or evening dessert. They are especially delicious dunked in a hot cuppa. My grandmothers didn’t make this cookie, but I can just hear Grandma D laughing and talking about how I’m just like my Grandfather, dunking all his cookies.
It’s funny, these connections. My grandmothers are gone, but in my heart like its like they’ve never left. They are with me everyday, guiding my actions, reminding me what is important, and encouraging me to share the love they modeled with the world.
Chai Lebkuchen HeartsPrint Recipe
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup dark molasses
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 large egg
- 2 3/4 cup all purpose flour + more for dusting
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 2 tbsp milk
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- Red food coloring
- 2 tbsp light corn syrup
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- Almond shavings
In small pan, combine honey and molasses. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once combined and warm to the touch, add the brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Once sugar is cool, place butter in a stand mixer. Mix for 1 minute or until smooth. Scrape sides, add the egg and mix until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides and add the sugar mixture. Mix until well combined. Scrape sides and add almond extract. Mix for an additional minute.
Combine flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, garam masala, salt, and ginger in a large bowl. Add to mixer in 2 parts, with mixer on low speed. Scrap sides and especially bottom and mix again. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
To make the cookies, you will need a good amount of flour for constant dusting as they tend to stick. Flour surface well and roller. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness with a good amount of flour underneath. Use heart cookie cutters to cut out hearts. Line pans with parchment paper and leave about 2 inches between cookies as they do expand.
Preheat oven to 350. Bake cookies for about 15 minutes or until they spring back to the touch. With two pans in the oven, it took about 17 minutes for me. Placing new parchment on a hot pan cut the time back to 15 minutes.
Remove cookies immediately to a cooling rack.
When cool, prepare the glaze. Combine powdered sugar and milk into a small bowl. Add vanilla and corn syrup and whisk to combine until shiny. Add red food coloring to make your desired color. Dip cooking and place back on the rack. I placed a cookie sheet underneath to catch the drippings. Top immediately with almond slices if using. Allow glaze to cool completely (about 1 hour) before packaging.
These cookies keep for about a week in an airtight container, and are amazing when dunked in coffee.