Lebkucken are a German spice cookie. Traditionally available at Christmas time, they contain cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, citrus peel. Is your mouth watering yet? They are great with a cup of coffee, tea or a cold glass of milk. Lebkuchen are very dunkable. Yum!!! By the way, any leftover lebkuchen is great crumbled over vanilla ice cream. Heavenly!
My husband and I recently took these to a party. They went over very well. Some made their way to work. By the way, lebkuchen freeze well, another plus of this wonderful cookie.
Lebkuchen are a close relative of Honigkuchen or “honey cakes”.
These were popular in ancient Egypt and Rome. Honey was considered a sacred food. The more contemporary origins of lebkuchen go back to the Middle Ages. They were first introduced to the town of Ulm around 1296. From there they traveled to Nuremberg.
Monks baked them in the late 1300’s. People enjoyed them with strong ale. Believe it or not this odd combination was a digestive aid. No, I didn’t make this up. Cloves have been a stomach soother since antiquity. These little “spicy” gems were often known as “pfeffer kuchen” or pepper cakes because of all the spices in them. You see, pepper was a collective name for all stomach-friendly spices.
The many spices in lebkuchen made them expensive, one of the reasons why they were only made at Christmas time.
Spices in the Middle Ages were extremely expensive. For the most part, only wealthier homes could afford them. In order to have access to spices, one had to live in urban trading areas. Nuremburg was one.
You will notice that one of the ingredients in lebkuchen is citrus peel. You can buy it at the grocery store or make it. Although this creates an extra step, it is well worth it for the pop of flavor! Citrus peel stores well in your refrigerator.
So let do a quick tutorial on making quick candied orange peel for this recipe. I really love this recipe from Fine Cooking for quick candied orange zest. Here are the steps:
Step 1: Use a zester that pulls 1/8 inch strands, pull all the zest from 3 oranges. See the zester in the photo. ( Do not use micro planer zester or a vegetable peeler. The micro planer will not pull off strands and the vegetable peeler takes off some of the white bitter pith. You only want the outer skin and no pith.)
Step 2: Bring a 2 quart saucepan to a boil and drop in the zest peels, boil for 5 minutes. Drain off the water and repeat. After the second boiling set the peels aside.
Step 3: In a saucepan add 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and heat on medium until all the sugar dissolves while stirring continuously. Add the peels and stir until the mixture is thick and coats the peels.
Step 4: Drain any excess syrup and spread the peels in a chilled bowl. They will be ready to mince for the recipe once they have cooled. You need a 1/4 cup and the flavor it adds to the cookies is amazing! You can store the candied peels in the fridge for about 3 months.
Here are the step by step photo instructions to make great lebkuchen cookies from scratch!
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and have 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper ready.
In a heat proof bowl beat together the eggs and sugar over a pan of simmering water.
Step 2: Beat with a whisk until the mixture is foamy. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat an additional two minutes.
Step 3: In a large bowl have your all purpose flour and cocoa powder sifted and well combined.
Step 4: Add the spice mixture and combine.
Step 5: Add the minced candied orange peels and stir. ( Don’t worry if they seem to clump at this step.)
Step 6: Add the almond meal and stir well.
Step 7: Add the egg and sugar mixture.
Step 8: Stir until it forms a dough. If it seems a bit loose add a little more flour.
Step 9: Using a small cookie scooper, drop the dough onto the parchment.
Step 10: Bake 15 minutes or until you see just a slightly darker edge on the cookie. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the parchment on a wire rack before trying to lift them off the paper.
Step 11: For the white and milk chocolate frosting: Place the one type of chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until melted. Dip the cookies into the melted chocolate.
Step 12: While the chocolate is still hot, sprinkle with some coarse sugar to decorate.
This recipe has been adapted from the book Bake by Edward Gee
Here is a Christmas cookie you must try. A traditional German spice cookie made famous in Nuremberg by monks. Try these for your cookie exchange!
Preheat oven to 350'F
Line 3-4 baking sheets with parchment paper
Place eggs and sugar in a heatproof bowl on top of a saucepan of simmering water.
Beat with a whisk until thick and foamy.
Remove bowl from pan and continue to beat for an additional two minutes.
In a large bowl, sift flour, and cocoa powder. Add in the spices, almond flour and orange peel.
Slowly add the egg mixture and mix well until you have a uniform dough. If the dough is a bit loose a little more flour.
Using a cookie scooper, drop small mounds onto the parchment sheets.
Press down lightly on the mounds.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes.
Cool on wire racks.
While the cookies are baking, place chocolate chips on two separate bowls, each over a pan of simmering water. Stir gently until thoroughly melted.
Using tongs, dip each cookie into the melted chocolate, alternating in order to end up with equal amounts of each color. Sprinkle with sugar crystals.