Lebkuchen is a traditional German baked Christmas treat, which resembles gingerbread.
They range in taste from spicy to sweet and come in a variety of shapes, although round is the most common. Ingredients usually include spices, nuts including almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts, or honey.
Originally created by monks, Lebkuchen dough is traditionally placed on a thin wafer base called Oblate. This was an idea of the monks, who used unleavened communion wafer ingredients to prevent the dough from sticking.
Typically, they are glazed with sugar mixed with egg white or lemon juice, or covered with very dark chocolate, but they can be left plain. I had planned to glaze these with sugar, but when I tasted one on its own, it was so sweet that adding more sugar would have made it sickeningly so. Hence the hats of dark chocolate. If you want to go all out, you could submerge them completely in chocolate.
Lebkuchen is usually soft, but a harder type of Lebkuchen is used to produce Lebkuchen Hearts, usually inscribed with icing, which are available at many German fairs, and the witch houses made popular because of the fairy tales about Hansel and Gretel. The closest German equivalent of the gingerbread man is the Honigkuchenpferd (honey cake horse).
Lebkuchen is sometimes packaged in richly decorated tins, chests, and boxes which have become nostalgic collector items. I went for an old baking tin and some ivy from the garden. And, of course, a plastic deer or two.
At this time of year, Lebkuchen are a staple in my house. In years past it has been those little heart-shaped chocolate-covered ones with a blob of apricot jam in the middle. These gluten-free ones are a great substitute.
- 1/4 cup soft dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup soft light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp allspice
- 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
- 3/4 cup ground almonds
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup flax-meal
- 1/4 cup brown teff flour
- 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/4 cup sweet rice flour, aka glutinous rice
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 100g quality dark chocolate
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius / 160 fan / 350 Fahrenheit. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
- Place the sugar and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachments, whisk until pale and creamy and at least doubled in volume.
- Change to the beater attachment. Add the spices, salt, lemon zest and ground almonds. Mix until incorporated.
- In a separate bowl mix together the flax-meal, flours and baking powder. Add to the mixture in three batches, beating well in-between each addition, until you have a soft dough.
- Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop the dough onto the prepared tray. They don’t spread very much so they can be placed quite close together.
- Bake for 15 minutes, until pale golden brown and firm to the touch.
- Leave to cool for 5 minutes on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once the Lebkuchen have cooled, melt the chocolate and use to top each cookie. If you want to be really indulgent, you could double the quantity of chocolate and dunk each cookie completely.
- Set aside until the chocolate has set.
- Store in an air-tight container. Best left for 24 hours before eating.
© The Pink Rose Bakery 2014