Traditionally known as Leckerli, BEAR SQUARES began with an old family recipe, one that has been handed down in my family for at least six generations. A traditional delicacy known all over Switzerland, the name Leckerli translates as something "small and sweet". Its origins date back to the mid 1400's, and the recipe varies from region to region and from family to family. Our recipe traces its origins to the Basel region of Switzerland and uses almonds, citrus and just the right balance of spices.
As a child, my grandmother would let me in her kitchen and amuse me by saying I was "helping". She would make these tasty treats herself but we also would receive them from family in Switzerland. We were taught from a young age to appreciate this delicacy and not devour it like other cookies; it was made clear that they should be eaten slowly and enjoyed. Traditionally, the squares should be allowed to ripen for at least 3-4 weeks before serving. Although Leckerli can last for more than a year, we like it best when it has aged between two and six months.
One year I decided to order some for my wife, who had never heard of it, let alone ever tried it. The only place I could find it was on-line and in Switzerland. After logging on to the website and placing them in my cart, I proceeded to check out. Boy, was I surprised to see that the shipping was more than the product. At that point I canceled the order and decided to dig out the recipe that I had made years ago with my grandmother. The thought of this task was a bit intimidating; I remember the process being time consuming and laborious, but enjoyable. Despite my reservations, I gave it a try. As soon as the ingredients mixed, the aroma took me right back to Grandma's kitchen. With each batch, I think of her and how patient she was (and how much I miss her). Making these certainly brings back fond memories of baking with her. Thanks Mom-mom!
Since that scary solo first batch, I have made it for friends and family to see what they thought. I wanted to be able to offer Leckerli in the United States for folks like me who like it and get the craving often. I started small at the local farmer's market. Things have gone well and the feedback has been positive. I now have a wholesale license so that I can sell on-line and in local shops.
I have found that people are using the BEAR SQUARES for something more than just a tasty treat. In the winter skiers started using them for energy. Then, in the spring, came the runners and cyclists. When summer hit, the fishing guides and campers discovered they were easy to pack. With hunting season, these little gems were thrown in with the gear and did their time in the field. Parents have found they work well for the kids because they: taste great, satisfy hunger, won't melt or crumble (making a mess of your car), and are not grab-and-go junk. I myself like hiking and biking and I agree with the feedback. I also find that they provide a level energy, instead of the spike and crash I would get from other sources. These features and benefits make them perfect for various outdoor activities or to curb hunger while running errands or between meals.
At each and every market I would find that I would share the history over and over and people had a hard time remembering the name Leckerli. Person after person would ask, "What are those squares called again?" Squares seemed to fit (since that is the shape) but, the name needed something more. Since these are Swiss treats, it got me thinking of Switzerland; Bern to be exact. Since this capital city is known as the city of bears, I decided that would be a nice way to pay homage to the country of origin. So, I decided on BEAR SQUARES and people seemed to love it and it goes well with the Montana lifestyle. The phrase "get yer paws on 'em" just seems to fit. So, my family recipe continues its legacy but will be known in the United States as BEAR SQUARES.
If someone asks, "Where to buy Leckerli in the US?", please have them visit our store page @ www.bearsquaresbakery.com.