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XxThanks go out to baker Tim Young of Louisville, Kentucky, for opening my eyes to a type of molded gingerbread that I had never heard of before. It seems that bakers in some towns in eastern Switzerland make a cookie called biber (beaver) or biberli (little beavers). Tim's cousin lives in one of these towns, St. Gallen, where bakers make a cookie called St. Gallens biber. It is a thick gingerbread cookie, filled with a sweet almond mixture and glazed with honey. It is sold to tourists as a souveneir of their visit to the town. There are other Swiss towns which have a history of making this type of cookie, and one of them is Appenzell. That is where the following recipe for biber comes from.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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Appenzeller Biberli

BIBERLI DOUGH:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup molasses

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons water

The zest of a small lemon, finely grated

FILLING:

4 ounces (about 1 cup) whole blanched almonds

1/2 cup sugar

The zest of a small lemon, finely grated

2 tablespoons Kirsch

1. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325°F.

2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices; stir well to mix.

3. In a large saucepan, combine the honey, molasses, and sugar with a wooden spoon. Place over low heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the water and lemon zest. Stir in the flour mixture with a large rubber spatula. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough cool while you prepare the filling.

4. For the filling, combine the almonds and sugar in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse repeatedly until the almonds are finely ground. Add the lemon zest and Kirsch and pulse until the filling forms a ball. If it resists forming a ball add a teaspoon of water and pulse again until it does.

5. Remove the filling from the food processor and roll it into a cylinder. Divide into 3 equal pieces. Roll out each piece into a cylinder 12 inches long. Use some sugar to help you roll if the filling is very sticky. Place on a pan and cover with plastic wrap.

6. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces and roll each to a 12-inch cylinder. One at a time, on a floured surface flatten a cylinder of dough to make it about 2 1/2 inches wide. Paint the surface of the dough with water and place one of the cylinders of filling on it. Pull the dough up around the filling to enclose it completely. Turn the filled dough seam side down and roll it under the palms of the hands to make a cylinder 18 inches long. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

7. To cut the cookies, make alternating diagonal cuts that are an inch apart on one side and 1/4-inch apart on the other.

8. Place the biberli on the prepared pans, leaving about an inch around each cookie in all directions.

9. Bake the biberli for about 20 to 25 minutes, until well risen and firm, Do not over bake or the filling might bubble out.

10. Slide the papers from the pans to racks.

11. Store the cooled cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

12. For simpler cookies, omit filling and divide dough into 20 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten it with the bottom of a glass on a floured surface (flour the top of the dough, too. Line up an inch apart on baking pans and bake as above -- just don't overbake or they will be hard.

Makes about 50 cookies.


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