It's been an (almost) auspicious day in the Christmas prep calendar. I say "almost", because I enjoyed one roaring success and one ... well, we'll come to that later.
The auspicious bit was the homemade chocolate 'bark'.
Not that trying to bash up a 400g block of chocolate into useable chunks was in any way sophisticated or classy: I resorted to using an old knife as a chisel and a hammer from the under-sink toolbox. Although that didn't provide me with a great target area to aim for and it rapidly became like some sort of particularly demented version of Das Rheingold, where 'Ow!' followed 'Clang!' in rhythmic symmetry.
After hitting my thumb a number of times, I resorted to wearing an oven glove as protection. It wasn't perfect, but it helped enough to get the job just about done.
It wasn't a difficult task from then on.
Melt around a third of the chocolate very gently in a bowl over a simmering pan of water, stirring carefully. Then remove the bowl from the heat and add the rest of the chocolate, stirring until that melts. Add your flavouring – finely chopped stem ginger in this case – and put the bowl back on the pan until the chocolate is a consistency that will easily pour.
In the meantime, take a baking tray and line it with foil. When your mixture is ready, pour into the lined tray and use a spatula to spread it evenly. If you want to try some with salt, add a little ground sea salt at this stage (I did this over a small portion of the chocolate). Then leave to set. After which, break it all up into irregular piece and store.
The taste is super – and the bits with salt on really zing on the tongue. Wonderful.
The Lebkuchen was a slightly different story, however.
I took the dough out of the fridge and let it come back to room temperature, as per the recipe. Then I piled it onto some greaseproof paper, put another sheet on top, and rolled it out.
The trouble was, when I started trying to cut out biscuits, they stuck to the bottom paper and, even when I used a spatula to try to lift them carefully, they squished up completely. In the end, the only logical thing to do was to pile the whole of the flattened dough into the oven on two baking trays and bake it like that.
It looks a mess. But it tastes fine. I still don't know what went wrong. But it's not a complete disaster at any rate.