The first time I ever had Lebkuchen (German gingerbread) was back in 1997. Harald was visiting me in Berkeley and had brought homemade ones all the way from Germany. At that time, I had no idea what these round, fragrant, nutty and soft cookie-like snacks were, but they were the most delicious things I’d tasted in a long time. Sadly, they were impossible to find outside of Germany.
Lebkuchen is most commonly available in Germany around Christmas. These wonderfully aromatic spice cookies, whose main ingredients are spices, flour, ground almonds/hazelnuts/walnuts, eggs, candied orange and lime peel, can be found in supermarkets in the couple of months leading up to Christmas with the most common brands being Bahlsen and Wicklein.
Our favourite Lebkuchen manufacturer is Lebkuchen-Schmidt. Their Lebkuchen products are so popular (in Bavaria, anyways) that they can afford to have seasonal shops that are closed all year round except for 3 months in winter. Fortunately for us (since we aren’t always here around Christmas), they also have shops that are open all-year round. Whenever we visit Germany, we’d make a trip to one of their shops in Nürnberg and end up carrying at least a kilogram of Lebkuchen home.
The homemade Lebkuchen featured here, which I made together with A, are just as wonderful as the store-bought ones, if not better. I’ll definitely be making space in my luggage for these “(home)made-in-Germany” cookies, along with all sorts of confectioneries and baking ingredients that I’d be hard-pressed to find back home!
[Edited Mar 21, 2008 to include translated recipe]
Classic Lebkuchen (Adapted and translated from Lekuchen Rezepte)
Yield: ~ 30 Lebkuchen
1 packet vanilla sugar (~10g)
1 tsp cinnamon
One pinch each of ground cloves, allspice and cardamon
200g almonds (ground)
50g candied orange peel (chopped)
75g candied lemon peel (chopped)
Zest from ½ lemon
1 tsp baking powder
30 round wafer sheets (~ 7cm)
Sugar glaze (see recipe below)
Whole blanched almonds for decoration (optional)
1. Mix the flour and baking powder together.
2. Place the eggs with the sugar and vanilla sugar in a bowl and beat until foamy.
3. Add in the flour mixure, spices, almonds, lemon zest, candied orange and lemon peel. Mix to form a dough.
4. Preheat the oven to 175 – 200 degrees C. (I use 180 degrees C for lebkuchen)
5. Spread the dough on each wafer sheet and bake until golden brown on an ungreased baking sheet for 15 to 20 mins.
6. Allow the lebkuchen to cool and glaze with the sugar glaze. Decorate with the whole blanched almonds as desired.
200g confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice (alternatively, use 2 tbsp rum)
2 tbsp hot water
1. Mix well for 5 – 10 mins. The glaze should be fluid with a thick consistency.