Christmas delights

by Simone Leonard, contributing writer (Recipes courtesy of

Christmas time is here and the time to eat yummy Christmas treats is upon us! Walking into any German bakery, one will find delicious delights such as marzipan, lebkuchen and chestnuts.

These delights are wonderful paired with a warm cup of eggnog or cappuccino. What is even more exciting is that these holiday treats can be made at home. Below are easy to follow recipes to use on a night when friends or family come over during this holiday season.

Marzipan is a traditional German almond paste. Typically, marzipan is used in cake icing, baking cookies and in chocolate, among other sweets.

2 cups granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 cups ground almonds (or almond meal)
2 egg whites
Powdered sugar for dusting

1. Prepare a workspace by sprinkling powdered sugar over a marble slab, wooden cutting board or large baking sheet. Fill your sink or a large bowl with cold water.
2. Place the sugar and 2/3 cup water in a large heavy saucepan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
3. Add the cream of tartar and turn up the heat. Bring to a boil and cover, boiling for 3 minutes.
4. Uncover and boil until the temperature reaches soft-ball stage, 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.
5. Place the bottom of the saucepan in the cold water you’ve prepared, stirring the sugar mixture constantly until it becomes thick and creamy.
6. Stir in the ground almonds and the egg whites, then place back over low heat and stir for 2 minutes more until the mixture is thick.
7. Spoon the marzipan onto your prepared work surface and turn it with a metal spatula until it cools down enough to touch.
8. Coat your hands in powdered sugar and begin to knead the marzipan, working it until it is smooth and pliant.
9. Your marzipan can now be used immediately or stored by wrapping it in plastic wrap and keeping it in an airtight container.

“Lebkuchen,” or gingerbread, is a traditional German Christmas treat and is hugely popular this time of year. Check out the recipe below and add it to your baking list this year!
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup diced candied citron
1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1. In a medium saucepan, stir together the honey and molasses. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove from heat and stir in the brown sugar, egg, lemon juice and lemon zest. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg. Add the molasses mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in the citron and hazelnuts. Cover dough and chill overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Grease cookie sheets. Using a small amount of dough at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into small rectangles and place them 1 inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheet.
3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven until no imprint remains when touched lightly. Brush the icing over the cookies while they are still hot and quickly remove them to wire cooling racks. Store in airtight container with a cup of orange or apple for a few days to mellow.

1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat to between 234 and 240 F (112 to 116 C), or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms a soft ball that flattens when removed from the water and placed on a flat surface.
2. Remove from heat and stir in the confectioners’
sugar. If icing becomes sugary while brushing cookies, re-heat slightly, adding a little water until crystals dissolves.

Chestnuts are delicious treats that can be eaten as a snack or after-dinner dessert. Chestnuts are also very easy to roast.

1 pound chestnuts
1/4 cup butter
salt to taste
1 pinch ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).
2. Cut a 1/2 inch crisscross on the flat side of each nut. Be sure to cut through the shell to prevent the nut from exploding.
3. Place the nuts in a shallow baking pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
4. Allow to cool and peel off the shell.
5. Place nuts in a skillet with butter and saute over high heat until the butter is melted and the chestnuts are well coated. Place skillet in oven and roast until they are golden on top. Sprinkle with salt and cinnamon.