German Vanillebrezeln (Vanilla Pretzels)
3 dozen scale / convert
3-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped unblanched almonds (with skins on)
2 to 3 tbsp. sugar
White Sugar Glaze for Cookies or
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1-1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
1 tsp. rum or brandy (optional)
1/2 to 1-1/4 tbsp. hot water, or as needed
FOR THE COOKIE DOUGH: Sift flour with baking powder into a wide bowl. form a well in flour. To this add butter, cut into small pieces, 1 beaten egg, vanilla, sugar and cream. Work ingredients together with your fingertips until you have a smooth dough that sticks together. Form a ball, wrap in waxed paper and chill 30 minutes.
Break dough off in pieces slightly larger than a walnut. With floured hands, roll each piece to a thin rope. Shape into a pretzel.
Arrange on buttered baking sheet and chill 20 minutes.
Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with chopped almonds, then sugar.
Bake in preheated 325 F. oven for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
VARIATION: The almond and sugar topping may be omitted and the pretzels baked and cooled, then spread with White Sugar Glaze.
FOR THE GLAZE: For cookies and cakes, and especially for Lebkuchen.
Combine sugar, cornstarch, flavorings and rum or brandy. Gradually stir in hot water, a tablespoonful at a time, until you have a smooth thick paste. Spread on warm cookies. If mixture cools and thickens as you work, thin with additional hot water. Sugar sprinkles can be scattered on the glaze before it hardens. Makes 1/4 cup, or enough to ice about fifteen 1 1/2 inch cookies.
The pretzel shape has particular significance at Christmas, as it is derived from a pagan calendar symbol marking the winter solstice--a circle representing the sun's course, with a dot in the center representing the earth. When this was made as a cookie, the dot became a cross; and when it was later made of one strip of rolled dough, it assumed the shape of the pretzel as we know it.
Visions of Sugar Plums
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