Nuremburg Lebkuchen: Soft and Chewy German Christmas Cookies
A recipe for classic German cookies, excerpted from the cookbook The Lemon Apron Cookbook, by Jennifer Emilson
If you cut me open, you’ll probably find that I am made of Lebkuchen! Lebkuchen (or honey cake) is a German cousin of North American gingerbread. In addition to being sweetened by honey—instead of molasses— it contains a few different spices than gingerbread, most strikingly, white pepper and anise seed. Both help to create a unique but warm spice blend.
Some of you may have reservations about its licorice leanings, but I promise, this is a good thing. Each area of Germany seems to have its own special version, but one of the most beloved is the Nuremburg Lebkuchen, also known as Elisenlebkuchen. Unlike most German baking, this is flour-free, relying totally on nuts, candied peel, and eggs. There is something so special about the soft and chewy texture, the spices, and the interaction of the bittersweet chocolate with the sweet cookies. The aromas are downright heady when you open the container . . . even 3 weeks after you make them!
Makes 32 to 36 cookies
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes per batch
Lebkuchen Spice Blend
- 2¼ tspground cinnamon
- 1¼ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground white pepper
- ¼ tsp ground anise seed
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup + 1 Tbsp (235 g) sugar
- 4½ oz (125 g) marzipan
- ¼ tsp salt
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ½ cup packed (85 g) candied orange or lemon peel
- ½ cup packed (85 g) mixed candied peel (I like citrus)
- 1¼ cups (120 g) ground hazelnuts
- 1¼ cups (120 g) almond meal
- ½ cup (80 g) finely chopped blanched almonds
- 7 oz (200 g) dark or bittersweet chocolate
- Sliced almonds, for decoration (optional)
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
For the Lebkuchen Spice Blend
In a small bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, white pepper, and anise. Set aside.
For the Cookies
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or using a hand-held mixer and a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Using the large side of a box grater, grate the marzipan into the bowl. Whisk again until well blended and slightly frothy. Add the Lebkuchen spice blend, the salt, lemon zest, candied peels, ground hazelnuts, almond meal, and almonds. Switch to the paddle attachment or use a wooden spoon to blend well.
Measure a sheet of parchment paper that will fit your baking sheet. Using a marker or pencil, trace circles, 2½ inches in diameter (a round biscuit cutter will guide you) and about ¾ inch apart. You should be able to draw about eight circles. Turn the parchment upside down and check that the markings are still visible. Spoon 1½ tablespoons or so of cookie batter onto each circle. Using a small offset spatula or your finger dampened with water, spread the batter to just fill the circle, leaving a bit more mounded in the center.
Bake on the center rack of the oven until golden brown and slightly puffed, about 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies completely cool on the sheet before removing. An offset spatula may help loosen them.
Repeat the measuring and baking steps as many times as needed with the remaining cookie batter, using a new sheet of parchment for each batch.
Once all the batches are completely cooled, coarsely chop the chocolate, place it in a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water, and melt, stirring, until smooth and glossy. Let it cool for 1 minute. Use a silicone brush to spread the chocolate over the tops of the cookies. Make sure to get into every nook and cranny. If desired, decorate the cookies with the sliced almonds, lightly pressing them into the chocolate on top. Let cool completely.
If you can’t find ground anise seed, simply crush whole anise seeds using a mortar and pestle, and use ¼ teaspoon as directed.
If you can’t find ground hazelnuts, toast 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of whole hazelnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer them to a tea towel, wrap well, and rub them vigorously to remove their skins. Grind the cleaned nuts to a medium-fine meal in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Stop as soon as this texture has been achieved, as going further will release the oils and you’ll find yourself with hazelnut butter!
The cookies can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Excerpted from The Lemon Apron Cookbook: Seasonal Recipes for the Curious Home Cook by Jennifer Emilson. Copyright © 2022Jeniffer Emilson.Cover and interior design by Lisa Jager. Cover and interior photography by Johann Headley. Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.