You'll find these on the petits fours plates served during the holidays at 2941 restaurant in Falls Church.
For best results, use unsalted European-style butter with a high butterfat content, such as the small-batch cultured butter you might find at the farmers market, or Plugra brand, which is available at Whole Foods Markets and some Safeway stores.
An instant-read thermometer or candy thermometer is needed for this recipe.
Make Ahead: Rolled portions of the dough need to be refrigerated for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. The ganache filling can be made a few hours in advance and kept at room temperature. The unfilled baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 1 month; defrost completely before filling. The assembled cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Servings: 36 small sandwich cookies
- For the lebkuchen
- 4 1/2 cups unbleached flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, preferably with butterfat content of 82 to 86 percent, at room temperature (see headnote)
- 2 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
- 2-inch-piece peeled ginger root, finely grated (1 tablespoon)
- Finely grated zest of 1/2 or 1 lemon (1 teaspoon)
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- For the filling
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 6 ounces pear puree (baby food is good to use)
- 24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, preferably with a butterfat content of 82 to 86 percent (see above)
- Scrapings from 1 vanilla bean
- 2 tablespoons pear eau de vie (brandy)
- 2 3/4 cups chopped milk chocolate, preferably 37 to 38 percent, such as Guittard or Dagoba (available at Whole Foods Markets)
For the lebkuchen: Sift together the flour, baking powder, white pepper, cloves, ground ginger and cinnamon in a bowl.
Combine the butter, brown sugar, grated ginger, lemon zest and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on low speed so as not to incorporate air. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Fold in the flour mixture by hand until it is halfway blended, then return the mixer to low speed just long enough to form a dough.
Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Roll each portion between 2 pieces of parchment paper or wax paper (do not use plastic wrap) to a thickness of slightly less than 1/4 inch. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 325 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
Use a small (1 1/2-inch) cookie cutter to cut out at least 72 cookies; scraps can be rerolled. Arrange on the baking sheets, spacing them 1/2-inch apart. Bake on the upper and lower racks for 5 to 7 minutes, then rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, until firm and dry. The cookies will look lightly browned. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool while you make the filling. Repeat to bake all of the cut-out cookies.
For the filling: Heat the granulated sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat so that it becomes a dark caramel color and melts; this will take several minutes. Shake the pan, but do not stir. Reduce the heat to low to keep it warm.
Meanwhile, combine the pear puree, butter and vanilla bean scrapings in a medium saucepan; heat over medium-high heat until it begins to bubble at the edges and the butter has melted completely; stir to mix well. Remove from the heat.
Carefully add the pear-butter mixture and pear eau de vie to the caramel, stirring to incorporate. Increase the heat to medium and cook to a temperature of 221 degrees, which will take about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Melt the chocolate (either in a heatproof bowl suspended over a saucepan of barely bubbling water or in the microwave) to a temperature of 88 degrees, then transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the caramel-puree mixture and pulse to form a smooth, shiny, thin ganache.
When ready to assemble, invert half of the cookies. Use a small offset spatula to coat the tops of the inverted cookies, creating a layer that is fairly thick. Top with the remaining cookies to form small sandwich cookies.
From Anthony Chavez, pastry chef at 2941 in Falls Church.
Tested by Randy Richter and Bonnie S. Benwick.
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