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 can be crumbled over vanilla ice cream. Heavenly!
My husband and I recently took these to a party and they went over very well. A portion of the leftovers made their way to the break room at 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 where 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 and from there they traveled to Nuremberg.
They were baked by monks in the late 1300’s, who allegedly enjoyed them with strong ale brewed in house. Believe it or not this odd combination was used as a digestive aid. No, I didn’t make this up. Cloves have been used as 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 somewhat of a collective name for all spices that were stomach friendly.
The many spices in lebkuchen made them somewhat 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 the wealthier homes could afford them. Also, in order to have access to spices it was necessary to live in large urban areas where merchants traded, Nuremburg was one such area.
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. Citrus peel stores well in your refrigerator.
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.
- 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.