During the late 19th century, as part of their Protestant beliefs, the Templers arrived in Jerusalem from Europe and established the German colony, a picturesque little neighborhood southwest of the Old City that to this day feels unusually central European. This is the "civilized" part of town, where you go for a coffee and a slice of Sachertorte if you wish to escape the harsh Levantine reality.
Germanic influences on the city's food are evident in Christian contexts — the famous Austrian hospice at the heart of the Old City serves superb strudels and proper schnitzels — but Czech, Austrian, Hungarian, and German Jews arriving in the city from the 1930s have also managed to stamp their mark, opening cafés and bakeries serving many Austro-Hungarian classics. Duvshanyot, round iced cookies, made with honey and spices, typically for Rosh Hashanah, are possibly a result of this heritage; they are similar to pfeffernüsse.
These are very loosely inspired by duvshanyot, or pfeffernüsse. They are actually more closely related to an Italian spice cookie and are hugely popular on the sweet counter at Ottolenghi over Easter and Christmas. The recipe was adapted from the excellent The International Cookie Cookbook by Nancy Baggett.
- 3/4 Cups plus 2 tablespoons currants
- 2 Tablespoons brandy
- 2 Cups scant all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 Teaspoon best-quality cocoa powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 Teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 Teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 Teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 Teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 Teaspoon salt
- 5 Ounces good-quality dark chocolate, grated coarsely
- 1/2 Cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2/3 Cups superfine sugar
- 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 Teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 Teaspoon grated orange zest
- 1/2 large free-range egg
- 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 1/3 Cup confectioners' sugar
- 1 Tablespoon diced candied citrus peel
In a bowl, soak the currants in the brandy for 10 minutes. In another bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, spices, salt, and dark chocolate. Mix well with a whisk.
Put the butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon and orange zest in a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment and beat to combine but not aerate much, about 1 minute. With the mixer running, slowly add the egg and mix for about 1 minute. Add the dry ingredients, followed by the currants and brandy. Mix until everything comes together.
Gently knead the dough in the bowl with your hands until it comes together and is uniform. Divide the dough into 1 ¾-ounce chunks and shape each chunk into a perfectly round ball. Line 1 or 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and place the balls on the sheets, spacing them about ¾-inch apart, and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bake the cookies until the top firms up but the center is still slightly soft, for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let cool for only 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack. While the cookies are still warm, whisk together the lemon juice and confectioners' sugar in a bowl until a thin and smooth icing forms.
Pour 1 tablespoon of the glaze over each biscuit, leaving it to drip and coat the biscuit with a very thin, almost transparent film. Finish each with 3 pieces of candied peel placed at the center. Leave to set and serve, or store in an airtight container for a day or two.