One of the oldest and most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe is the Christkindlmarkt in Nuremberg,Germany. The Christmas Angel opens this famous market on the Friday before the first Sunday of Advent and when it closes on Christmas Eve more than 2 million visitors will have browsed the almost 200 stalls and feasted on Nuremburger bratwurst, spicy lebkuchen and warm glühwein. It is impossible not to take away many souvenirs of this famous Medieval market and one of the favorites is “Nuremberg Prune People,” little people made from prunes with a walnut head. The stalls are made of wood and are festooned with red and white cloth, thus the Market name of “The Little Town from Wood and Cloth.
I had the sweetest little grouping of prune people on my buffet every Christmas, but they
eventually succumbed to Pacific Northwest winter humidity and little nutcrackers took their places.
Lebkuchen has always been one of my favorite cookies, and in Nuremberg you can find many versions of
this delicious German gingerbread. Some are iced with a powdered sugar glaze and some have chocolate and most are decorated with almonds.
Most lebkuchen has a cakey texture like a traditional gingerbread, but my favorite is a chewy version,especially when it is warm out of the oven. Right inside the gate to the Old City you will find a small bakery that makes lebkuchen every morning. It is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted and I would make a trip back to Nuremberg at holiday time for this one thing alone. I know that the setting can make a difference in how much we enjoy something, like eating macarons in Paris, but there is nothing like warm, spicy, chewy lebkuchen on a cold December morning in Nuremberg.
This recipe is from my mother’s files and it is good, but not my favorite. I’m looking for a chewier version and at first
thought I wouldn’t post this recipe until I found just the right one, but that could take ages and I realized that maybe one
of my German readers has the recipe I’m looking for. If anyone can help me with this I would be very grateful. I prefer the
combination of ground almonds and hazelnuts and like to use the oblaten wafers because the cookies are easy to handle.
- ½ c. softened butter (113 grams)
- 1 c. sugar (200 grams)
- 4 eggs
- 3 c. white flour (360 grams)
- 1 T. Lebkuchen spices (6 grams)(see note below)
- 2 T. cocoa powder (12 grams)
- 1½ tsp. double acting baking powder
- 1 c. milk (225 ml)
- 1¾ c. ground almonds, ground hazelnuts or a combination of both (150 grams)
- ½ c. candied lemon peel, chopped (100 grams)
- 1 T. rum or orange liqueur
- ½ c. granulated sugar
- ¼ c. water
- ½ tsp. vanilla
- 1 – 2 T. rum or liqueur
- ½ c. powdered sugar
- 32 Oblaten (baking wafers) 3 inch size
- ½ c. raisins, soaked in rum and chopped
- ¼ c. shredded coconut
- Note about “Lebkuchen spices”. If you do not buy premixed “Lebkuchen Gewürz” from a German store, you may mix your own.
- 2T. ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp. ground cloves
- ½ tsp. ground allspice
- ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp. ground coriander
- ½ tsp. ground cardamom
- ½ tsp. ground ginger
- ½ tsp. ground anise seed
- Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per recipe.
- Cream butter, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy.
- Mix in flour, spices, cocoa powder and baking powder, alternating with milk.
- Fold in nuts and lemon peel. Stir in rum. Stir in raisins and coconut if you are using them.
- Drop about 3 tablespoons cookie dough into the center of each circle. (If you are using “Oblaten” drop the dough onto the wafer and smooth to the edges.) When tray is full, use the back of the spoon to fill out circle, slightly mounding the dough towards the center.
- Bake at 375°F for 15-20 minutes. Turn down oven to 350°F if cookies are browning too much.
- Let cool for a few minutes, then remove to a cookie or cake rack to cool.
- While they are still warm, make the glaze.
- Place ½ c. sugar and ¼ c. water in a small saucepan on the stove. Bring to a boil and boil for a few minutes. Add vanilla and liqueur or rum. Sift powdered sugar over hot sugar syrup and stir.
- Using a pastry brush, brush warm glaze over warm cookies. Let dry completely.
- Dry glazed cookies for a day (to dry the glaze so it stays a bit crunchy) then store in an airtight container or freeze.
Ingredients include almond meal from Bob’s Red Mill and Hazelnut Flour from Cascade Hazelnut. As soon as I get my web store up and running I will have high quality candied lemon and orange peel available. A good quality lemon peel is essential to the taste and texture of lebkuchen.
Spoon a generous scoop (3-4 tablespoons) of the cookie dough onto an oblaten wafer and smooth it out,
making it slightly higher in the center.
After baking brush glaze powdered sugar or chocolate glaze over the surface of the cookie.
Let them air dry overnight and then store in airtight containers. The flavor mellows with age.
Cookies last several weeks.
I hope you will try this traditional German treat this Christmas. If any of my friends have a recipe that produces a chewy rather than a cakey version I would be very grateful if you would share it. Many German deli’s carry a premade lebkuchen spice blend, Lebkuchen Gewürz, but making it from scratch is easy and then you will have some for gingerbread cake too.