Lebkuchen Recipe: Christmas Baking
Christmas is coming! And we're back with a traditional Lebkuchen recipe to celebrate the festive season. Take it away, Lauren! Our top baker at Joanie HQ...
Ah, ‘it’s the most wonderful time of the year’… and my most favourite time of year. I’m not so much of a fan of the actual day (as I always seem to find myself trying to dial down the Gordon Ramsey) but all the loveliness that surrounds it…
One of the things to crank up the yuletide festivities for me is a visit to the German Christmas Markets to meet up with friends, take in the magnificent smell of bratwurst, wooden cabins & the smell of spiced wine. Why not bring a little bit of it into your kitchen this Christmastime by baking your own batch of traditional German Christmas cookies, Lebkuchen?! Before I launch into this Lebkuchen Recipe, what is Lebkuchen anyway?
What is Lebkuchen? The Lowdown
Similar to gingerbread, Lebkuchen is a honey-sweetened cake made with ground nuts and spices, traditionally enjoyed in Europe around Christmastime. Some are decorated with icing glaze, chocolate and some with messages and a ribbon to hang to give as gifts.
Lebkuchen in a more lo-fi form; “honey cake”, was eaten right back in Egyptian, Greek and Roman times where they believed the honey to bring healing & magical powers.
Later in Belgium, it was introduced to Germany and taken over by the Franconian monasteries where the nuns created the Lebkuchen shapes we make today. Referred to as Pfefferkuchen ('pepper cake'), these cookies were introduced to Ulm in 1296. Later, they were baked by monks in Nurnberg in 1395 but it wasn’t until 1409 before it was referred to as Lebkuchen.
Want to make some traditional Lebkuchen biscuits yourself? On to the recipe!
To make your authentic German Lebkuchen, you'll need a few things. Below is what you'll need for this Lebkuchen Recipe.
What You'll Need
- 2 large baking trays greased or lined with parchment
- A couple of mixing bowls & a saucepan
- Festive cookie cutters
- Food processor (if you’re using whole nuts)
- 200g Runny honey
- 85g Unsalted butter
- 200g Plain flour
- 100g Ground almonds* (or a mixture of almonds, walnuts & hazelnuts)
- 1 tsp Baking powder
- ¼ tsp Bicarb of soda
- 1 tsp Ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp Ground ginger
- 1 tsp Ground allspice
- ½ tsp Ground cloves
- ½ tsp Grated nutmeg
- ¼ tsp Ground black pepper
- 1.5 tbsp Cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp Candied orange peel, finely chopped
- Pinch of salt
- 100g Icing sugar
- 100g Dark/white/milk chocolate
- Christmassy sprinkles /silver balls/ chocolate stars
- Icing tube/bag
Basically, anything a bit festive to ‘jazz’ them up!
* If you haven’t got ground almonds, use blanched, flaked or whole almonds and pulse in a food processor until finely ground
Top Tip: An Icing tube/bag with the small nozzle you can find would really help with small details (which might make them look a bit more refined than mine do!!).
1. Pre-heat the oven at 180C fan /Gas mark 6.
2. Measure out the honey & butter into a saucepan, melt on a low heat, stirring until the butter has fully melted. Set it aside to cool.
3. Measure out the rest of the ingredients into your mixing bowl then combine with the cooled butter/honey mixture.
4. Roll the dough into a ball, cover and allow to cool for a good hour or so it’s completely cold. When you’re ready to bake them, roll out the dough onto a floured surface to around 2.5cm thick and cut out your shapes (it should make about 16 biscuits depending on the cutter sizes you have),
5. Lay them onto the lined trays, leaving enough room between for spreading during cooking.
6. Cook in the pre-heated oven for 10 -12 minutes or until brown around the edges. Leave to cool completely before decorating.
7. To make the chocolate glaze all you need to do is melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
8. Once melted, dip the bottom half of the Lebkuchen in the chocolate and leave to set completely, chocolate side up.
9. To make the icing glaze mix the icing sugar with hot water until smooth and as you did with the chocolate, dip the bottom half in the icing and leave to set. Once set, depending how you want yours to look, leave the tops plain or coat the top in chocolate or icing (as you did the with the underside) or do half chocolate half icing. Whatever you like!
Store in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks, though these are probably better eaten fresher.
Top Tip: If you roll them thinner, they’ll be a harder biscuit if you want them softer in the middle roll them 2.5cm and keep an eye on them.
I really enjoyed making these and will be adding Lebkuchen to the Christmas baking list for next year! They go nice as most things do, with a cup of tea or a glass of glühwein if you’re making them for yourself or would also make a lovely edible gift.
Feeling festive now? Take a look at our Festive Style Edit for some Christmas Day dressing ideas!