These confections were invented by Basel's gingerbread makers in the 14th century. They originally contained ginger, but over the years candied citrus peel, which is less expensive, replaced it.
- 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. honey
- 1 1⁄4 cups sugar
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tbsp. kirsch
- 1⁄4 cup finely chopped candied orange peel
- 1⁄4 cup finely chopped candied lemon peel
- 3⁄4 cup finely chopped almonds
- 1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1⁄2 tsp. ground cloves
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 4 3⁄4 cups flour
- 1 1⁄4 cups confectioners' sugar
Heat honey in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, add sugar, and cook, stirring often, until sugar dissolves, about 15 minutes. Set aside to let cool.
Put baking soda and kirsch into a large bowl, and stir until dissolved; then add cooled honey. Stir in candied orange and lemon peels, almonds, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Gradually add flour, stirring with a large metal spoon until dough becomes too stiff to stir; then knead in remaining flour with your hands until well combined. Cover dough with plastic wrap, and set aside in a cool place overnight (do not refrigerate).
Preheat oven to 350°. Divide dough in half; then roll out each half on a well-floured work surface into a 1⁄4''-thick rectangle. (Dough will be stiff and will require some effort to roll out.) Transfer each rectangle to a greased, parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet, and bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven; then, while rectangles are still warm, square off edges of each one with a sharp knife, and deeply score each one to make a grid of smaller rectangles about 2'' long X 11⁄2'' wide.
Mix together confectioners' sugar and 3 tbsp. water in a medium bowl until smooth, brush a thin, even layer on warm scored rectangles, and set aside to let cool completely. Break cookies into rectangles. Store in airtight containers up to 1 year, if you like.