Lebkuchen – German Christmas Cookies
Christmas in Germany is charming with all the Christmas markets in every town and city. If you have ever been to Germany, then you have definitely come across lebkuchen in the markets. As soon as you step foot in any German market, the smell of warm spices would fill the air. It instantly makes you feel at ease and gives a strange sense of warmth and home. Follow that aroma and it would lead you to one of the many lebkuchen stalls. If I can give you one advice, it is to buy these cookies and buy a lot of them.
There are two main varieties of German lebkuchen. The very famous Nürnberger lebkuchen from Nuremberg and the brown lebkuchen and they are very different from each other. Nürnberger lebkuchen are round chewy thick cookies that have very little flour. Ideally flour should be no more than 10%, in addition to nuts, spices and candied fruits. The dough is very sticky and cannot be rolled, instead it is scooped on very thin wafers called Backoblaten.
The brown lebkuchen have a soft dough that can be rolled and cut into different shapes. The dough has a much higher ratio of flour. The large heart-shaped cookies you find all over Germany are a commercial variety of the brown lebkuchen. One thing both varieties have in common is that both are sweetened with honey. They also use the infamous Traditionally the spices use the infamous Lebkuchengerwürz (lebkuchen spice mix.
The spices are insanely good and smell so much like Christmas. It is not easy to buy a ready mix of the lebkuchen spices. This is why I am including a recipe here. This is a recipe I got from a German pastry chef and is a keeper.
The recipe I am sharing today is of the brown lebkuchen. As delicious as the other variety but is much easier to bake. There are different var recipes and spice mixes all over Germany, but they are all an integral part of Christmas!
Let’s get baking!
The recipe for the spice mix is measured by weight and is for whole spices. Freshly ground spices always taste better.
Use the highest quality honey there is, not the commercial runny type. It would even be ideal if you use high quality citrus honey.
When you heat the honey and sugar together, do not let it come to a boil or even a simmer.
Pastry flour is used because it has less protein, which is important to get the right texture.
Let the dough rest in the fridge for 30 minutes before working with it.
I bake at 180°C for 11 minutes, but each oven is different. You know your oven the best, so this is just a guideline rather than a strict rule.
The shelf life of these cookies is very long, they can be stored for weeks in a sealed jar. The dough itself freezes really well up to 3 months.
Lebkuchengerwürz (lebkuchen spice mix)
- 50 g cinnamon
- 30 g coriander
- 30 g aniseed
- 20 g cloves
- 20 g ginger
- 15 g nutmeg
- 15 g cardamom
- 100 g honey
- 1 tbsp water
- 75 g sugar
- 200 g flour
- 1 ½ tbsp spice mix
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp milk
- Dark and white chocolate for glazing optional
- Mix honey, sugar and water and heat until warm, but do not boil
- Add cinnamon, spice mix and baking powder to flour and stir until well combined.
- Add the honey mixture and milk to the flour and stir until well combined.
- Cool in the fridge for 30 min before rolling the dough.
- Roll the dough and cut into your preferred shape with a cookie cutter.
- Bake at 180°C for 10 – 12 mins.
- Dip in chocolate and enjoy!