To make up for the lack of words in my last post, let me present to you a traditional, regional dish from Leipzig (the best place in the world to me), which I will praise now with the help of many words.
Leipziger Lerchen (Leipzig Larks) were invented when lark hunt was banned in Leipzig in 1876. In the 17th and 18th century, it had become very popular to eat larks so that finally not many of those birds were left. When the hunt was banned, some bakers created these little cakes. They were meant as a compensation for the rich people of the town, who loved to eat their larks.
Originally made with strawberry jam, sweet and bitter almonds, they were created to resemble the birds on the plate. (Was this the invention of mock meat?) The cross on top of the cake resembles the ribbons which were used to bind the bird together. It seems that the nobility of the town was satisfied with the vegetarization of their dish and today you can still find these little birds in Leipzig’s bakeries.
I found a recipe that called for the typical shortcrust pastry with a filling of apricot jam, schnapps made from apricots, marzipan and egg whites. The shortcrust pastry was easy to veganize, but the filling called for two egg whites to make the marzipan soft and fluffy. I decided to use a mixture of agar-agar and baking powder instead and it turned out fine.
Leipziger Lerchen (makes 12)
250g (2 cups) all purpose wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
120g (1/2 cup or a stick) vegan margarine, cold and cut into small slices)
60g (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon) sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon agar powder mixed with
6 teaspoons water and
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
400g (14.3 oz) marzipan
75g (3/4 cup sifted) powdered sugar
a few drops of bitter almond flavour oil (you can leave that if you don’t find any)
60 ml (4 tablespoons apricot schnapps, or apricot liquor or any other fruit schnapps/ liquor)
For the crust, combine flour, sugar, salt, margarine and cornstarch. Knead until crumbly, then add water, tablespoon by tablespoon until your dough is firm and smooth. Divide into two parts, roll into balls then form into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. (You can also make this one day in advance.)
For the filling, crumble the marzipan into a bowl, add sugar, bitter almond flavour, alcohol and the “egg white” mixture. Knead until everything is well mixed. Set aside.
Grease a muffin tin for twelve muffins and preheat the oven to 175°C /350°F.
Roll out the dough (0,5 cm or 1/4 inch). It’s much easier if you place the dough between two layers of plastic wrap.
Remove plastic wrap and divide the dough into 12 circles, which should have two times the size of the muffin tin bottoms. Reserve the rest of the dough for the strips that will be placed on top later on.
Press the dough into the muffin tins and trim the edges. Spread one teaspoon of jam onto the bottom of every crust and top with marzipan filling. Cut the leftover dough into strips and place to of them on top of every cake. They should form a cross.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, take the tins out of the oven and let cool for another 15 minutes. Now remove the larks from the tins with the help of a sharp knife. Enjoy!