Honigkuchen: An Orthodox Variation on a German Custom

Honigkuchen: An Orthodox Variation on a German Custom

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The Honigkuchen is a German biscuit or cake traditionally baked at Pascha and Christmas. It is customary to give these cakes to friends and family as part of holiday festivities.

This idea for an Orthodox version of the Honigkuchen custom is part of an Australian infusion. The Barossa Valley, a region of South Australia, was settled around 150 years ago by Lutherans from Prussia and other parts of central and Eastern Europe seeking religious freedom. These German immigrants did not have access to the ingredients of their homeland, so they used local Barossa ingredients when making Honigkuchen, such as substituting local honey for the traditional treacle. The original recipe would have included much more spice, similar to gingerbread, but given the Valley’s remote location, these settlers would have had difficulty obtaining such spices.

Honigkuchen are traditionally cross-shaped and coated in icing. The Honigkuchen can be decorated with flowers or, in this example, the letters ‘IC XC NIKA’ which mean Jesus Christ Conquers.

Ingredients

1 cup honey

1 cup sugar

1 tbsp unsalted butter

½ cup cold water

1 ½ tsp baking soda

1 large egg, well beaten

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp cinnamon

2 cup self-rising flour

3 ½ all-purpose flour

Icing

1 ½ cups pure icing sugar, sifted

1 egg white

½ tsp lemon juice

Instructions

1.      Combine honey, sugar, and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat.

2.      Add water and baking soda; whisk to combine. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and let cool until lukewarm. The mixture will “separate” as it cools; make sure to whisk together again before proceeding to the next step.

3.      When lukewarm, add egg, cloves, and cinnamon, and whisk to combine. Add self-rising flour and 3 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir with a wooden spoon, adding another ½ cup of all-purpose flour, if needed, to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out on the counter and knead to bring the mixture together into one lump. Place dough in a bowl, cover with cling wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

4.      When ready to bake the biscuits, preheat oven to 325 F. Divide dough into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time, roll out the dough on a well-floured surface until about ¼ inch thick. Using a bench scraper or a knife, trim the edges and cut into rectangles about 3 inches by 2 inches. Then, cut out quarters to make crosses. Add more flour as necessary; this dough has a tendency to stick.

5.      Place biscuits on a tray lined with baking sheet, and bake for 7 minutes. Be sure not to over bake them as they will go dry.

6.      Leave them to cool for a minute on the tray, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

7.      To make icing, lightly whisk egg white and lemon juice together in a bowl. Gradually add icing sugar, whisking until smooth and combined. Add to a piping-bag and draw out design on biscuits.

Recipe sourced and adapted from www.stoveria.blogspot.com

Thanks to Kyriaki Fuss from South Australia for sharing how she incorporated her German heritage with her Faith – a German-Australian-Orthodox adaption.

Photo by Chris Vlahonasios, used with permission.

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Chris Vlahonasios

Chris Vlahonasios is a law graduate from Victoria University and Orthodox media writer for TRANSFIGURE Media.