Christmas assortment – Marzipan and gingerbread sweet treats
For some time I had the idea of leaving you a post with a small Christmas assortment, simple pastries although they do not seem so in appearance, to be able to leave prepared in advance for the holidays that are coming. Today I leave you a first Christmas assortment with marzipan and gingerbread sweets. Three different elaborations to accompany your Christmas tray or to prepare small boxes to give to your friends or family.
We will see how to prepare homemade marzipan, but with a very different appearance from the traditional one, filled with icing and decorated with candied fruits or sprinkles. With the same marzipan dough, we will prepare marzipan bonbons flavored with cinnamon, cocoa and rum, filled with apricot jam and covered with chocolate. Finally, we will prepare incredible Lebkuchen cookies, with a tender, spongy texture, filled with bitter orange marmalade and covered with dark or white chocolate.
All the recipes are very easy to carry out, they just require some love when it comes to the final decoration. They need very short baking times and can be kept in perfect condition for several days before the dates indicated.
Origin of Christmas sweets.
It is unknown when and how the tradition of eating Christmas sweets became established as a custom in our lives. Some historians believe it may be a pagan rite, while others believe it may be a religious custom that began in convents.
Both versions come from the Middle Ages, more precisely from the celebration of the winter solstice. This is an astronomical event that marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, the opposite occurs, marking the beginning of summer. This event has cultural and religious meanings in many traditions around the world.
Some of them are the following:
- Yule, Norse tradition: Yule was a Germanic holiday celebrated during the winter solstice to honor the Norse sun god Baldur. Bonfires were lit to represent the victory of light over darkness. The Yule tree, found in many Scandinavian traditions, is a precursor to the modern Christmas tree.
- Saturnalia, ancient Rome: Saturnalia was a Roman holiday held around the winter solstice in honor of the god Saturn. During this celebration, social norms were reversed, slaves were temporarily freed and festivities and banquets were held.
- Hanukkah, the Jewish tradition: Although not directly related to the winter solstice, Hanukkahis a Jewish holiday usually celebrated in December. For eight days, candles are lit on the menorah (7-branched oil candelabra) to commemorate the miracle of the oil in the Temple in Jerusalem.
- Dongzhi, China: The Dongzhi holiday, meaning “coming of winter“, is celebrated in China during the winter solstice. Families gather to enjoy traditional foods, such as glutinous rice balls called tangyuan, which symbolize family reunion and renewal.
- Inti Raymi, the Inca culture: Although not celebrated in the same way today, the Inca civilization had festivals that coincided with the solstices. Inti Raymi was a festival dedicated to the sun god, Inti, and ceremonies were held to ensure the return of the sun after the dark season.
- Contemporary celebrations: Today, the winter solstice is also celebrated in various ways around the world. Some people perform spiritual ceremonies or rituals to welcome the growing light, while others simply enjoy family gatherings and festivities related to the holiday season.
Christmas has deep roots in pagan traditions that preceded Christian celebrations. Many of the elements associated with Christmas, such as decorated trees, lights and festivities during the winter solstice, have their origins in ancient pagan cultures.
Pagan cultures worshipped gods that differed from Christian gods. The Celts were the predominant pagan people in the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages and later centuries. They had their own traditions, myths and divinities. They also had great devotion to the phenomena of nature. For them, the winter solstice was an important event and a reason for celebration. They used to eat sweets made with wheat, one of the most accessible ingredients at that time.
It was believed that the celebration of rituals and festivities during this time helped to ensure the return of light after the darkest days.
The tradition of decorating a tree at Christmas has its roots in several pagan cultures. The ancient Germanic people decorated trees as part of winter solstice celebrations, considering them symbols of eternal life. The Yule tree in the Norse tradition also influenced the adoption of this custom. Lights were used symbolically to represent sunlight, while ornaments, such as balls, represented the sun and moon.
Christianity also based its dates on the winter solstice and fixed its celebrations on it to celebrate the birth of Christ together with the arrival of the Magi from the East. It was customary during these celebrations to reduce the consumption of meat and increase the consumption of sweets made from wheat.
As time went by, these sweets evolved and, in addition to wheat, ingredients such as chocolate, honey or almonds began to be used. This, together with wars, famines and contact with other cultures and traditions, gave rise to new ideas for the artisans that became creations of new and different sweets.
These were the beginnings of a tradition that endures today and has managed to survive the passage of time. The only downside I would put, from my humble opinion, is that every year these dates are more commercial, less emotional, less close or familiar… They are becoming a material event, without real feelings. We should try to keep the essence that our ancestors celebrated in their day; celebrate life, celebrate the moments that nature gives us and be grateful for being here, today and now, and to be able to celebrate, live and enjoy it.
To dedicate time to cooking is to dedicate time to materialize your love, affection and emotions, to make them reach the people you love and care about.
Recipe Christmas assortment - Marzipan and gingerbread sweet treats
- 400 g ground almonds
- 385 g powdered sugar
- 20 g honey
- 65 g water
HEARTS AND CHRISTMAS TREES MARZIPAN:
Inspired in a recipe from this book "Gran libro de la Repostería"
- 440 g marzipan
- 1 egg yolk, for brushing
ICING AND FILLING HEARTS AND CHRISTMAS TREES:
- 35 g egg white
- 160 g powdered sugar
- sprinkles for decorating
- candied cherries and green-dyed candied pumpkin
- 450 g marzipan
- 3 g cinnamon powder
- 7 g unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 g de rum
For the filling and covering of marzipan bonbons
- apricot jam, without pieces
- 100 g dark chocolate 70% + 50 g milk chocolate
- almonds and walnuts for decoration
LEBKUCHEN OR GINGERBREAD DOUGH:
- 125 g honey
- 125 g panela
- 50 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 large egg
- 250 g cake flour
- 40 g unsweetened cocoa powder
- 5 g baking powder
- 1,5 g salt
- 3 g cinnamon powder
- 2 g ginger powder
- 3 g Lebkuchen spices
- 10 g concentrated orange paste (mine is Sosa brand)
LEBKUCHEN CHOCOLATE COOKIES:
Dark chocolate coating
- 175 g dark chocolate 70%
White chocolate coating
- 175 g white ch0colate
Decoration and filling Lebkuchen cookies
- 50 g milk chocolate
- 150 g bitter orange marmalade
- christmas flakes sprinkles (optional)
MATERIAL THAT WE WILL NEED AND SHOWN IN THE VIDEO:
- KitchenAid* or stand mixer
- KitchenAid crystal bowl*
- adjustable rolling pin Joseph & Joseph
- silpat o teflón sheets
- perforated mat DeBuyer*
- perforated tray, mine is DeBuyer*
- digital kitchen thermometer
- heart cutter
- christmas tree cutter
- stars cutter
- modeling utensils
- pastry brush
- mangas pasteleras
- tray Naturals Nordic Ware 25 x 18 x 2,8 cm*
- Debuyer curly round cutters
- chocolate rack
- cooling rack
- Emile Henry mold 27 x 23 x 7 cm*
- silicone spatula
- pastry spatula
*In these products you have a 5% discount on the website Claudia&Julia using this code BAKESTREET. Delivers throughout Europe.
- In a bowl, add ground almonds together with powdered sugar, honey and water. Mix.
- Observe the consistency of the marzipan and, if necessary, add a little more water. We must achieve a manageable almond paste that does not crumble. The final amount of water will depend on the degree of drying of the almond, the older it is, the more water it will need.
- Form a cylinder, cover with plastic wrap and let stand for at least 2 hours, ideally overnight in the refrigerator if it is hot or at room temperature in a cool, dry place at home.
Prepare Lebkuchen dough.
- In a saucepan add honey and sugar. Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally. Let the ingredients melt and integrate completely.
- Remove from heat and let stand for about 30-40 minutes to cool slightly.
- In the bowl of the KitchenAid add the butter, with the help of the paddle, start beating on speed 1. Integrate the honey molasses and sugar in a continuous stream. Mix on speed 1 with the paddle until a homogeneous mixture is obtained.
- Incorporate the egg and mix until it is completely integrated.
- Add the spices along with the salt, cocoa powder and orange paste. Mix again until fully integrated.
- Begin to integrate the flour little by little. Mix until fully integrated and add more flour.
- Repeat this step until all the flour has been added.
- Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead a little with your hands.
- Flatten slightly and wrap in plastic wrap or place in a freezer bag.
- Let stand at room temperature for 2-3 hours and refrigerate overnight.
- NOTE: It is not necessary to temper this dough after resting in the cold. The consistency is manageable and we can proceed to stretch it immediately after removing it from the refrigerator.
HEARTS AND CHRISTMAS TREES MARZIPAN
Form hearts and marzipan trees.
- Divide the piece of marzipan in two equal parts, more or less. To form these sweets we need about 440 g of marzipan, approximately.
- Place the marzipan on a silpat and with the help of an adjustable rolling pin, stretch the marzipan to a thickness of 6 mm.
- Use heart and Christmas tree shaped cookie cutters. Cut 4 pieces of each.
- To remove the marzipan from the cutter without deforming it, once you have cut the piece, press gently with your fingertips on the marzipan and it will come off without deforming.
- Place the marzipan pieces on a silpat or perforated mat.
- Join marzipan scraps, knead and stretch again to be able to cut all the pieces.
- With the excess marzipan, form cords to create a border around each piece.
- Slightly moisten the edge of the marzipan piece and place the string. This will bind the two pieces together.
- Press gently and texturize the edge. You can do this with the help of a specific tool or with a toothpick. If you notice that it sticks to the marzipan, moisten slightly to prevent this from happening.
Bake marzipan pieces.
- Preheat the oven to 428ºF/220ºC, heat up and down.
- Brush the edges of the marzipan pieces with beaten egg yolk.
- Bake, in the highest part of the oven, for 4-5 minutes or until the edges turn a nice golden color. The final time will depend on each oven.
- I advise keeping an eye on the marzipan during the short baking time. We only need the edges to brown slightly.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely on the tray, placed on a wire rack. The marzipan pieces come out of the oven very tender and if we handle them, we can deform them.
Prepare the glaze to fill the marzipan candies.
- In a bowl, mix the egg white with the powdered sugar until homogenized. You should obtain a consistency similar to the one shown in the video.
Fill marzipan pastries.
- Put the icing in a piping bag and fill the inside of the hearts and Christmas trees.
- Once you have filled them, with a toothpick or specific utensil, guide the icing to fill holes and corners where it has not reached. Remove any air bubbles that may be on the surface of the icing.
- Decorate the surface of the icing with sprinkles for the Christmas trees and cherry and candied pumpkin for the hearts.
- Let dry at room temperature overnight.
Prepare marzipan bonbons.
- With the remaining marzipan, about 450 g, we will form the bonbons.
- Divide the piece into two equal parts, approximately 225 g each.
- Flavor one of them with rum, cocoa and spices.
- Crumble one of the marzipan parts in a bowl and add the cinnamon, cocoa and rum. Knead until completely homogenized.
- The consistency should be manageable, if you notice that it cracks or crumbles, it is because it lacks hydration. Add very little water, knead and check its consistency.
- Check the hydration of the other half of the marzipan, if it is a little dry, add very little water (less than half a teaspoon), knead and check its consistency.
Shape marzipan bonbons.
- Once both pieces are ready, proceed to stretch.
- Place the marzipan on a silpat or Teflon sheet. Stretch both pieces of marzipan separately, with the help of an adjustable rolling pin to a thickness of 2 mm.
- Place one piece of marzipan on top of the other, adjusting as much as possible.
- Gently roll the roller over the surface to adjust both pieces.
- With the help of a cutter, in my case I used a round curly cutter of 4 cm in diameter, cut pieces. For each bonbon we will need two pieces of marzipan that we will join with a filling.
- We will get about 15 bonbons.
- Pipe some apricot jam on one piece of marzipan and place another piece on the filling.
- Repeat the same process with the rest of the pieces.
Prepare chocolate coating for bonbons.
- Melt dark chocolate together with the milk chocolate in a bain-marie. Temper to 86ºF/30ºC.
- Place the marzipan bonbons on a grid, with a container placed underneath to collect the excess, and cover the bonbons with the chocolate.
- Gently tap the grid to settle the chocolate and encourage a thin layer to form.
- Decorate the top with an almond or walnut.
- With the help of a pastry spatula, transfer the bonbons to a silpat and let the coating harden completely.
LEBKUCHEN CHOCOLATE COOKIES
Shape Lebkuchen cookies.
- Before forming the cookies, knead the cookie dough on a surface lightly dusted with flour.
- To form the cookies, I advise you to roll out small portions.
- Place the dough on a silpat or Teflon sheet, sprinkle with flour and proceed to roll out the dough. Use an adjustable rolling pin and give a thickness of 3 mm.
- During the rolling process, you should sprinkle several times with flour because the dough is very sticky.
- Use star-shaped cutters, if possible, of different sizes.
- Each cookie consists of two pieces of star-shaped dough joined by a filling. In total we will get about 25 cookies, depending on the size of your cutters.
- Cut stars out of gingerbread dough and place them on a perforated mat on a perforated tray.
- Pipe some bitter orange marmalade on one of the pieces and place on top of this other piece.
- Carefully adjust the edges to prevent the filling from coming out during baking.
- Preheat the oven to 374ºF/190ºC, heat up and down.
- Bake the cookies for 8 minutes, we are looking for a tender cookie texture, not hard or crunchy.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool completely on a wire rack.
Prepare chocolate coating for the cookies.
- Melt dark chocolate in a bain-marie. Temper to 88ºF/31ºC.
- Place the cookies on a wire rack, with a bowl or baking paper placed underneath to catch the excess, and cover the cookies with the chocolate.
- Gently tap the rack to settle the chocolate and encourage a thin layer to form.
- Then decorate by creating lines with milk chocolate.
- With the help of a pastry spatula, transfer the chocolates to a silpat or other wire rack and let the coating harden completely.
- Follow the same process with the white chocolate covered cookies.
- Melt white chocolate in a bain-marie. Temper to 84ºF/29ºC.
- Proceed to cover and decorate in the same way as above.
- If you wish, you can decorate with some Christmas sprinkles, in my case I used snowflakes.
- Marzipan can be made and used on the same day, if desired. Letting it rest helps to enhance the aromas, as well as allowing the almonds to hydrate well.
- When you stretch the marzipan and observe that cracks form, it is a sign that it needs more water. No problem, add a little more water, mix very well and stretch again. Be careful when integrating the water, do it little by little, kneading very well and observing how it behaves. We can always add more, but it is not easy to remove the excess. It can be done by adding more almonds and icing, but this would force us to calculate the quantities to maintain a good proportion.
- As we stretch, remove scraps, join... The marzipan will dry out. Most likely, you will need to add a little water. You can do it with your hands, a coffee spoon or a bottle.
- This marzipan does not require baking because it does not contain egg whites. But in our case we will do it to brown the edges brushed with egg yolk.
- It is important to keep in mind that the glaze for the marzipan filling must dry at room temperature at least overnight. If you live in a humid place, they may need 24 hours to dry.
- You can decorate the marzipan with whatever you like, in my case I have left two options; sprinkles and candied fruits.
- To make the marzipan bonbons, we will give flavor and color with spices, rum and cocoa. The rum can be omitted if you wish and instead use water or orange blossom water for flavoring. The combination of two colors is very attractive, in addition to the flavors we add with the spices.
- The filling I have used for the marzipan bonbons is apricot jam, but you can use any jam you want, even quince or apple cheese.
- To make Lebkuchen cookies, we will prepare a molasses with honey and sugar (in my case I used panela, but you can use dark or light brown sugar). This mixture can be replaced by molasses if you wish, but I recommend you to make it yourself.
- It is very important to let the cookie dough rest overnight in the refrigerator. It improves its texture, but above all, its aroma and flavor.
- Before rolling out the cookie dough to cut the pieces, you should knead the dough a little. You will notice that it acquires a homogeneous and smooth texture.
- Sprinkle the work surface and the cookie dough with flour before rolling out the cookies. It is a very sticky dough and adheres easily to both the rolling pin and the table.
- You should not bake the cookies longer than the specified time, we are looking for a tender texture on this occasion. Not a crunchy and hard cookie.
- I have filled these cookies with bitter orange marmalade, it goes very well with this cookie dough. But, of course, you can vary the type of marmalade if you wish.
- It is important to temper the chocolate to cover the cookies, that way you will avoid that as they harden and the days go by, they get streaks and spots on the surface. The fats separate when we melt the chocolate and, if we do not temper, they crystallize in an unstable way giving rise to a coating with a bad texture and with streaks or spots.
- This Christmas assortment can be kept in a tin lined with ream paper or airtight container for 15 days. It is possible that it will keep in good condition longer, as long as they are stored in a cool, dry place, but I have not been able to verify this. If you store the marzipan in cookie bags, they will keep their freshness longer.
I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that you will be encouraged to create good moments around a table. Without a doubt, I have always believed that food brings people together. Sharing a table, conversations, laughter, joy... It is a factory of good memories.
I hope that this small but wonderful Christmas Assortment can bring you good moments both in the kitchen and in the moment you share them.
I wish you a wonderful Sunday!
Lots of love,
This post contains affiliated links.