Classic Lebkuchen cookies can't be missed in a German and Austrian household for Christmas.
Learn everything about Lebkuchen and how you can make them from scratch at home.
What is Lebkuchen?
Lebkuchen is a German honey cake.
Lebkuchen have a firm and dense, yet soft texture, a distinct honey taste, and a wonderful aroma created by a generous blend of spices, such as ginger, cardamom, aniseed, coriander, cloves, and allspice.
It can also have almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts.
Candied lemon and orange peels are also used by some Lebkuchen bakers to refine their confection.
There are Oblaten Lebkuchen, which are placed on a communion wafer, a legacy from when nuns and monks were the Lebkuchen bakers.
There are some variations on the basic Lebkuchen, such as the Elisenlebkuchen, which is made with less flour than the regular Lebkuchen.
In fact, the Elisenlebkuchen must contain no less than 25 percent nuts and less than 10 percent wheat flour.
Cakes made with honey have been baked since antiquity before the industrial production of sugar made it an available and affordable ingredient.
Honey cakes have been found in Roman, Greek, and Egyptian civilizations and were often believed to have magical protection powers as sweet honey was regarded as a blessing from the gods.
The honey acts not only as a sweetener but also as a leavening and preservative.
The German Lebkuchen was invented by nuns and monks in the 13th century.
The city of Nuremberg was at the forefront of Lebkuchen manufacturing and has produced the famous Nürnberger Lebkuchen that is still made today.
Lebkuchen VS Gingerbread
Gingerbread is similar to Lebkuchen as it is also made with spices, but gingerbread does not usually contain nuts.
Gingerbread cookies are also made with molasses, comapred to Lebkuchen cookies which contain honey.
Gingerbread houses originated in Germany in the 16th century and their popularity increased when the Brothers Grimm wrote Hansel and Gretel, where the witch lived in a house made of cookies and candy.
You can make a gingerbread house from Lebkuchen dough, just make sure to keep it a bit longer in the oven so that it becomes firmer and is able to hold the shape better.
Because of the firmness of the dough, Lebkuchen cookies lend themselves well to being decorated with different patterns.
People usually decorate their Lebkuchen cookies with candied cherry halves and almond halves.
Icing sugar is also commonly used in combination with small sugar decorations.
Lebkuchen are also often glazed or covered in dark chocolate.
Special delicately carved wooden Lebkuchen molds that depict flowers, geometric patterns and Christmas motives are used.
The earliest molds had Biblical themes and were used to educate the public about the Gospel at a time when most people were illiterate and books were written by hand and expensive.
Different rulers also used to emboss their portraits on Lebkuchen and distribute them among people to increase their popularity.
Lebkuchen are still popular today and Lebkuchen hearts that have declarations of love inscribed with icing are a popular item at fairs and Christmas markets.
Traditionally, in Germany, Lebkuchen are stored in a tin box between layers of parchment paper.
If you live in a cool and dry climate, you can place apple peels in the tin box for a nice aroma and to retain cookie moisture.
Keep in a dry and cool place away from direct sunlight for up to 1 month.
But in hot and tropical countries, it would be best to consume the Lebkuchen soon after baking to prevent them from going bad.
They can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.
Yes, can you make beautiful Christmas tree decorations made of Lebkuchen if you live in a cold climate. In tropical countries, it would be best to consume the Lebkuchen soon after baking to prevent it from going bad. They can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.
Dear Reader, how are you planning to decorate your Lebkuchen cookies?
Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comment section further below!
Classic Lebkuchen Recipe was first published on the 23rd of December 2012 at masalaherb.com!
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Classic Lebkuchen Recipe
For the dough:
For the Icing:
- 1 Egg-white
- 2 cups Powdered Sugar
- Place the Honey, brown sugar and butter together into a bowl and melt and mix the ingredients to a smooth sticky paste.
- Once the sticky mixture has cooled a bit add the white flour and baking powder and make a mold to add in your egg yolk. Keep on adding the Lemon zest, the ground walnuts, the Lebkuchen spice mix and the cinnamon powder.
- Preheat your oven to a 180 Celsius!
- Flour your working space and roll your dough to a 0.5 millimeter thickness out (don't roll out too thin!) and cut out your shapes with your cookie cutters. Make sure the dough is covered with flour, it's easier that way to cut out the shapes. Once done, dust the shapes a bit so that the extra flour falls off.
- Place the lebkuchen on a baking tray. At this point you can decorate them with nuts and candied fruits by pressing the sweets lightly into the dough.
- Bake smaller sized Lebkuchen cookies for about 15 minutes at 180 Celsius and then let them cool and bigger ones for 20 minutes at 180 Celsius..
- In the mean while, beat your egg white to a stiff snow. Once stiff continue to mix in the powdered sugar into the egg whites, batch by batch. The Icing should be very tough and shiny sticky. (For colored batches just add 2-3 drops of food coloring drops)
- Once the cookies have cooled, you can decorate them with the icing and top them with colorful and pretty looking sugar decorations. Either you pipe a thin line with the icing onto the cookies or you add a thin layer of icing onto the whole cookies surface. Just be creative and have fun!
- Store the lebkuchen cookies in a tin box in a dry climate with butter paper and some apple peels to keep the moisture in the cookies. In a humid environment store the cookies in an airtight container and keep away from heat and more humidity.
- Use your favorite sugar decoration
- Use Candied fruits such as cherries, ginger candy, orange candy or lemon candy.
- Choose between walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans etc.