Honigkuchen (a.k.a. Honey Cookies)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/8 cup unsalted butter
3/8 cup sour cream
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking ammonia* dissolved in 2 1/4 tsp boiling water
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground star anise
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 to 1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups flour
1 egg white
3/4 cup icing sugar
Beat together, butter, honey, brown sugar, eggs and sour cream in a large mixing bowl. Add soda, dissolved ammonia and spices.
Add flour and mix thoroughly. Dough will be fairly soft and will start to pull away from the spoon.
Refrigerate overnight. (It will keep in the fridge for several days.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Roll into 1-inch balls and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets. (I use a small spring-style ice cream scoop to make them an even size and then roll each ball smooth between my hands.) Should make about 3 1/2 dozen cookies.
Bake for about 10 minutes.
Beat egg whites until foamy and add icing sugar in 3 parts beating very well after each addition. Continue to beat until icing holds a soft peak.
Place the cookies in a very large bowl.
Pour icing over and, using your hands, gently fold icing over cookies until cookies are almost completely covered.
Take cookies out of the bowl one at a time, making sure each cookie is covered completely in icing and lay out on waxed paper.
When cookies have completely dried on one side, turn them upside down and let the bottoms dry completely.
These cookies are best baked a month or so before Christmas so that the flavours have time to "ripen". Do not store them in the freezer. I line ice cream buckets with waxed paper and layer the cookies with squares of waxed paper in between each layer. Cover tightly and store in a cool place.
*NOTE: Many of our our grandmothers' recipes call for baking ammonia as it was the precursor to baking powder and baking soda. It is actually "Ammonium bicarbonate". This is a leavening agent and can be purchased in European food stores (may be labeled as "Hirschhornsalz"), health food stores or some pharmacies. Please do not confuse it with ammonia - that is poisonous.
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