We were recently contacted by Carolyn in Vermont who had a curious problem: Her neighbor Bob is was about to turn 83 years old. When he was a boy, Bob's mother who was Swiss would bake a special kind of cookie called "Basel likilli".
At least, this is how Bob remembered the name. Carolyn was lost and turned to Newly Swissed: "Any chance you might know what he is remembering?" We sure do! Basler Läckerli are among my favorites and I would abuse my friends to bring them to the US by the pounds. Carolyn was thrilled, and it was clear that she would be recreating Basler Läckerli for Bob's 83rd birthday!
The following is Carolyn's original account of baking the mysterious Swiss Basler Läckerli cookie:
I had three different recipes and was not sure which one to use (see below for the links). All were very similar, yet something was a little different in each. So I decided to mix and match them in order to get what worked for me. The hardest part was figuring out the measurements from grams and lbs into cups and such.
First, I chop the almonds. I am sure that they are going to be a lot crunchier than they should be.
I use the zest of one lemon. I do not have Kirsch, but I do have cognac, so decide to soak some cherries in it hoping to get some cherry flavor. I thought I read that Kirsch had a cherry flavor... I do not want the cookies to have that "something's missing" taste.
I figure I will need about five cups of flour. I mix in about half the flour. Then, turn the dough onto a floured surface to knead in the rest of the flour. (I better take off my rings!)
My dough has gotten very tough and I still have about one and a half cups of flour left. Uh-oh, I hope this works! But first, I let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
In my search, I read a reference to the Basler Läckerli cookie as being like gingerbread. But none of the recipes call for any ginger - funny.
While the dough rests, let me find some old tin boxes to put Bob's cookies in. Round or square?
Ok, now on to rolling that dough! Then, I square it up pretty, well, ugly. Is this even close to what this cookie is supposed to look like?
So here they are. We are ready for baking - or not? Some recipes say to rest the dough overnight. One says to bake is immediately. Hmmm... I cannot wait, so I decide to bake it now.
After 30 minutes, I am not sure whether they are done. It turns out that they were, and here they are all iced up:
Taste test: They are nutty. Fruity. A little tough, but with a nice flavor. I guess we will have to let Bob be the final judge...
Bob's Verdict on Carolyn's Basler Läckerli recipe
Well, Bob was very surprised and he knew exactly what they were! I am sorry I did not get a picture of the expression on his face when he opened the box. It just made it all worth it.
This was such a fun project! I have never documented a baking experience before.
I learned so much and if I ever bake these cookies again, I will probably do a few things differently. Thank you, Dimitri, for this adventure. If it was not for your suggestion, I would have never taken it this far.
Bob said "thank you very much" in his Swiss word. I'll try to spell it: "Vielmal Dank!"
Vielmal Dank to you, Dimitri!
(Feature background picture copyright by Wikipedia)