German Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen is German gingerbread and there are as many recipes for it as there are bakers who make it.   My favorite, and the best known , is Nürnberger Lebkuchen,  They are baked on oblaten  (thin Communion-like wafers first used by monks in the 15th century so the cookies wouldn’t stick to the baking sheets), and they are known for their light, soft texture. There is a high ratio of nuts (almonds and hazelnuts) to flour and candied lemon peel and marzipan are essential  ingredients.

Lebkuchen

 

IMG_9887

  When my mother and I went to Germany years ago to visit the Christmas markets in several German cities we discovered the lebkuchen of Nuremberg.  Just inside the wall of the Old City, down the first street on the left, was a small bakery where we bought warm cookies every morning and munched on them as we made our way through the huge outdoor market.  It was freezing cold but we were bundled up and warmed ourselves with mugs of hot Gluhwein and grilled sausages.  It was in this great Christkindlmarkt that I first tasted gebrannte mandeln…burnt almonds…and bought the machines that I brought home and have been using  in local farmers markets and holiday celebrations ever since.

PicMonkey Collage

 I used 70mm oblaten wafers and a medium size (1-1/2″ diameter) ice cream scoop for these cookies.  Just drop the dough onto the middle of the wafer and gently press in the almonds.  Put them closer together than I did (almost touching) because they spread out during baking. As the dough bakes it spreads to the edge of the wafers, but not beyond.  This is a very soft dough and I don’t recommend trying to make the cookies without the wafer base.  I made the dough but didn’t have time to bake the cookies right then so refrigerated it for what turned out to be 2 days.  They were better after the aging for some reason so I recommend adding that step if you have time to do so.

lebkuchen ingredients

I make lebkuchen every year,  have tried dozens of recipes, and this one is my favorite so far.  It has the nutty flavor and light, chewy texture that I remember of the freshly baked cookies we bought in Nuremberg.  I posted a previous recipe here if you are interested in seeing another way to make these wonderful German treats.

Lebkuchen booth at Nurnberg market

One of the many lebkuchen booths at the Christkindlmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany.
First documentation of lebkuchen appears in the 11th century in handwritten letters from a monastery in Bavaria.  In 1293, the first gingerbread baking guild was formed and by the 14th century it was being produced in many German cities.  It is the first cookie associated with the Christmas season.

christmas-market-nuremberg heart shaped lebkuchen

 Lebkuchen is usually soft, but a harder type is used to produce large heart shaped cookies inscribed with icing that are available at German Christmas Markets and witch houses made popular in the fairy tale about Hansel and Gretel.  Nurnberger Lebkuchen is a Protected Designation of Origin and must be produced within the boundaries of the city.

Nuremberg-christmas-market

The Nurnberg Christkindlmarkt begins the day after Thanksgiving and lasts until Christmas Eve.

This post is linked to FOODIE FRIDAY at Rattlebridge Farm.

 

German Lebkuchen

Yield: 24 cookies

German Lebkuchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon mace
  • 2 ounces toasted almonds (or almond meal)
  • 2 ounces toasted hazelnuts (or hazelnut flour)
  • 1/2 cup diced good quality candied lemon peel
  • 3 ounces almond paste, crumbled
  • 3 large whole eggs
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • Glaze
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoon milk

Instructions

  1. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and spices in a bowl. Place almonds and hazelnuts (or nut flours) in the bowl of a food processor. If using whole nuts, pulse until finely chopped. Add lemon peel and almond paste and pulse until finely chopped. Add eggs and brown sugar, pulse until well mixed. Add dry ingredients and pulse until combines. Refrigerate dough in a covered container for 2 days.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat. Place oblaten wafers 2 inches apart. Top with a spoonful of dough and decorate with almonds if desired. Refrigerate remaining dough. Bake until golden brown, about 14 minutes, rotating sheet half way through if your oven has a hot spot. Let cool completely ON BAKING SHEET on a wire rack (about 30 minutes). Shape and bake remaining dough.
  3. Make Glaze
  4. Mix powdered sugar and milk together in a small bowl. Place cooled cookies on a wire rack and pour glaze over them, and let them set until glaze is dry. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
  5. TO TOAST NUTS
  6. Spread nuts on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, checking often.

Notes

Oblaten wafers come in several sizes, I chose the 70mm wafer and scooped the dough with the medium size (1-1/2-inch diameter) Pampered Chef ice cream scoop. The dough in this recipe is very soft and can't be rolled or shaped. I purchase a special Lebkuchen Spice Blend at my local German market that I use in this recipe. If you have a good German deli in your area you might ask if they make their own spice blend.

http://www.wiveswithknives.net/2013/12/05/german-lebkuchen/

Comments

  1. says

    Cathy..in Florida..German friends..brought us a package of these in a cute box!
    Commercial ones..they wanted us to try a German specialty.
    Jacques wondered if paper had come off the box..I assured him it was a wafer paper type bottom..anyway..he ate them all..I would love to offer some to them..where did you find the papers may I ask?
    I have so many sheets of wafer paper..do you think I could just cut them?
    :-)
    Thank you..yours are lovely!
    Would you say it’s almost a pumpkin pie spice?
    Monique recently posted..Ebb Tide…long…My Profile

    • says

      Hi Monique – I found the wafers in a wonderful German deli and grocery not too far away from where I live. I’m sure they are available online. I’ll take a look for you. I would think you could just cut circles out of the wafer paper you have. It’s worth a try. I think pumpkin pie spice would be delicious in the recipe.
      Cathy recently posted..German LebkuchenMy Profile

  2. Sheila (Mrs. Magpie) says

    Could the ingredients in these be any better? Ginger, hazelnuts, almonds, lemon, etc.? These look divine!

    xo

    Sheila

  3. says

    Great recipe, Cathy! We lived outside of Frankfurt, in Bamberg. I was introduced to lebkuchen, at a fantastic bakery there. I’ve not had good luck making anything close to them, so this recipe may be the answer. I’ll be looking for the oblaten at the Christkindlmarkt in Chicago when I go! Thanks for the recipe!
    Pam recently posted..Baked Turkey MeatballsMy Profile

    • says

      Lucky you to have lived in Germany. I would love to have had an experience like that. I’m going to the Christkindlmarkt in Chicago too. Will be visiting my daughter and her family for the holidays and love Chicago when it’s all dressed up for Christmas. I hope you find the oblaten there. I have made so many different recipes for lebkuchen with varying degrees of success. This one is the closest in texture and flavor to my favorite Nurnberg lebkuchen. If you try it be sure to let me know what you think.
      Cathy recently posted..German LebkuchenMy Profile

  4. Pondside says

    I have wonderful memories of the Nuremberg Kristkindlemarkt, as well as markets in many small towns and villages. The smell of the roasting chestnuts, almonds and gluwein is right at the forefront of my favourite Christmas memories. I’ve never made Lebkuchen but I remember my German neighbour’s version, on the Oblaten. What a treat it was!

    • says

      Visiting the Christmas Market is one of my most special memories of my mother. As she got older we could reminisce about it and her face would like up and her eyes would sparkle as we talked about it. It was a magical place. Happy Holidays.
      Cathy recently posted..German LebkuchenMy Profile

  5. says

    Delicious! I guess I’ll stick to my recipe this year because I have no idea where to purchase those wafers. There must be some German grocery stores in the Chicago area. I’ll have to check.

    Best,
    Bonnie

  6. says

    I’ve never had this cookie, but I’m sure I’d like it as I’ve met few cookies I didn’t care for. You always make things sound so easy which encourages me to give your recipes a try. Hope all is well in your part of the country.
    Linda recently posted..The Best of Turkey LeftoversMy Profile

  7. says

    What an interesting & informative post, Cathy! I learned a great deal from reading every word. I found it interesting that the round wafer discs are very similar to the Polish Christmas Eve tradition of “oplatki” which is shared by everyone present at that night’s dinner.
    I loved seeing the photos of Germany…Rick Steves did a program about Christmas traditions in seven different European countries. I thought of you as he showed the simple ways of France & he did touch on Germany as well.
    I could use one of your cookies with some hot tea right now. It is snowing & going to get bitter cold tonight.
    Thanks for warming me up with thoughts of yummy treats!
    Rettabug recently posted..Christmas Past at The Gazebo HouseMy Profile

  8. says

    I have always wanted to visit a Christmas market in Germany.
    It looks beautiful and so festive. I can almost imagine the fragrance
    of this special cookie. How I would love one right now. I have
    simple gingerbread cookies in the freezer, but love this recipe.
    Marilyn recently posted..Baby It’s Cold OutsideMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Abbe – The chopped candied lemon helps keep the cookies soft and chewy. You could substitute orange peel or chopped golden raisins. I have even used candied canteloupe and it was delicious. These ingredients add texture and flavor. Hope you give this recipe a try.
      Cathy recently posted..German LebkuchenMy Profile

  9. says

    My memories of the Christkindlmarkt in Nurenberg are a few decades old, but still there. I remember the “plum people” that my mother bought. We kept them for years, and years, until they finally disintegrated. The Lebkuchen still lingers on my mind. My Aunt just made some, that was pretty good. I can find Oblaten at a local German deli, and Amazon stocks them…but apparently they are currently sold out. Such great memories, Cathy.
    Foodiewife recently posted..Chanterelles with Sage, Roasted Pork Tenderloin & PolentaMy Profile

  10. says

    Howdy Cathy! Have yet tried making any of these. Have to bookmark this for later use. Thanks for sharing such lovely Xmas recipe. Hope you’re going to have a fabulous festive holiday. Enjoy & have loads of fun with family & friends.
    Best wishes, Kristy
    kristy recently posted..The Simple Delicious *4*My Profile

  11. says

    Now that’s my kind of strolling – with a cooking and some nice hot Gluhwein. We loved our trip to Germany and Austria one Christmas. Your lebkuchen sounds fabulous Cathy and I love that it’s chocked full of nuts. I’ve felt as if I visited Germany and you’ve left me in a very good Christmas spirit this morning.
    Sam
    Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen recently posted..Pomegranate Glazed ChickenMy Profile

  12. says

    I’ve never tasted these beautiful German cookies but the way you describe them certainly makes me want to try! I love that photo of the city and beautiful blue hour sky. Just beautiful! Did you take the photo, Cathy?

    • says

      Hi Susan – I found the photo years ago on the Christkindlmarkt’s website. I love the angle it’s taken from and the beautiful sky above the Church. That is exactly what the market looks like. It’s truly a magical place.
      Cathy recently posted..German LebkuchenMy Profile

  13. says

    Those are pretty and I bet they are just as delicious.

    Funny, how we all have different traditions. I’ve never heard of these and I enjoyed learning about them.

  14. says

    I think I tasted those once and I want to say I got them from Cost Plus on Butterfield Rd. but yours sound way way better, and I love the story of you and your mom. That market looks magical, I’ve seen it by way of a travel show on PBS, I could just imagine how awesome it would be to actual experience all of it. Such a nice Christmas-y post Cathy!

  15. Jeannie Tay says

    Hi Cathy, I think these cookies look really delectable too, sadly some ingredients are not available here. The last photo certainly looks magical. I can only dream of visiting at this moment in time:P

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