German Christmas Lebkuchen Recipe

Making Smoky Mountain Lebkuchen is a delicious Christmas tradition.

German Christmas Lebkuchen recipe is one of the most beloved and popular Christmas treats in Deutschland. The recipe dates back to the 14th century and was created in the Bavarian city of Nuremburg. Legend has it this flourless gingerbread was named after the daughter of a master gingerbread baker who worked in the city. The soft, round gingerbread cookies are usually baked on top of a thin Oblatan (crisp white wheat wafer) wafer. These cookies are traditionally served either plain,  sugar glazed or with a thin layer of good dark chocolate. Ground nuts or tiny pieces of candied citrus peel often serve as tasty garnishes.

Foreign culinary influences have blessed the Smoky Mountain region for generations. The tradition continues with this family recipe from HeySmokies fan, Lisa and her mother Annita. As a young girl in Germany Lisa remembers the excitement of traveling to the city of Nuremburg during the holidays.  Lisa and her mom would navigate the busy city streets hand in hand. They searched the shops for gifts and the special ingredients needed to make her favorite Christmas goodie, Lebkuchen!

Many store fronts sold fresh Lebkuchen and Lisa would sample them all.  “I remember standing in the snow, cookies in hand, with the peaceful sound of Christmas carols drifting through the crisp air. The scene was set for memories I still treasure today.” Lisa recalls the hardest thing was deciding which cookie to try first, chocolate or sugar glazed? What would it be? The treats came wrapped in festive holiday paper and her fingers would work anxiously to open them while anticipating the first bite! And that bite was good!

Packages in hand, the family would return home with their sweet tooth temporarily satisfied and hearts full of Christmas cheer. In the kitchen Annita would open the parcels and prepare to make her version of Lebkuchen for her family. Lisa remembers all the ingredients laid out with care and in their proper place. “It was a special thrill for me to help my Mother. I would sample and mix the ingredients, cut out the cookies with our traditional Lebkuchen bell, and finally bake them,” she recalls. It never occurred to her she was learning a skill to carry through life. A skill that allows her to share love and cheer with her friends and family.

Today Lisa lives in the Smoky Mountains and her mom remains in Germany. She admits that it can be easy to feel homesick, especially during the holidays. That is when she gets in the kitchen and gathers the ingredients for Lebkuchen.  “The sights, scents and process of making these cookies spark happy memories and transport me back to days gone by,” she says.

This Christmas Lisa and her fiancé are preparing to start a family of their own as Lisa’s mother travels across the Atlantic to celebrate with them. Together they will gather in the kitchen, fire up the oven, and make delicious, warm, new memories. Each step of the way anxiously awaiting the first bite of fresh baked Lebkuchen. And that bite will be good!

Ingredients

  • 5 large eggs

  • 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup honey

  • 1 teaspoon quality pure vanilla extract

  • 2 cups almond meal

  • 2 cups hazelnut meal

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 3 teaspoons the traditional spice blend –  Lebkuchengewürz (recipe below)

  • 4 ounces candied lemon peel 

  • 4 ounces candied orange peel

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (to coat the candied peel)

  • Homemade Lemon and Orange Peel

  • White communion wafers

  • Toasted whole almonds cut in half lengthwise

Chocolate Glaze

  • 3 ounces quality dark chocolate

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or oil of choice – do not use butter

  • Directions: Place chocolate and oil in a small bowl and microwave stirring occasionally, until melted. Use immediately. If glaze becomes firm, reheat in the microwave.

Sugar Glaze

  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar

  • Heavy cream

  • Directions: Add cream to to the sugar one tablespoon at time mixing well until desire consistency.

A Christmas elf adds a little magic to cutting the cookies with the Lebkuchen bell.

A Christmas elf adds a little magic to cutting out the cookies with the traditional Lebkuchen bell.

Lebkuchengewürz Mix

Grind in a spice mill equal parts cinnamon, allspice, cloves, coriander, star anise, ginger, mace cardamom and nutmeg

Lebkuchen Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Toss the candied lemon and orange peel with about 1/4 cup all-purpose flour to keep it from sticking together and then pulse in a food processor until finely minced. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the sugar, honey and vanilla extract and continue beating until combined.

Add the ground almonds;  hazelnuts; salt; baking powder; Lebkuchengewürz;  candied lemon; and orange peels. Stir vigorously until thoroughly combined. Beat for about 2 minutes. The mixture will be wet but if it is too thin to scoop onto the communion wafers add some more almond or hazelnut meal.

Scoop the mixture onto the wafers (if you can’t find the wafers place the mixture directly on a silicone baking mat), smoothing down the top and leaving just a slight space around the edges. Place on a  cookie sheet.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25-28 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet and allow to cool completely.

Once cooled, place a wire rack over a cookie sheet (to catch the drippings). Dip half the Lebkuchen in the chocolate glaze and half in the sugar glaze, letting the excess drip back into the bowl and then place the Lebkuchen on the wire rack. Add garnishes on each Lebkuchen while the glaze is still wet. Let the Lebkuchen dry completely until the glaze is hardened.

Stored in an airtight container these cookies will keep for several weeks and the flavor improves with time.

This recipe makes between 25 – 35 cookies depending on if you use the wafers.

Bonus culinary tip – Lisa shared that in addition to this traditional recipe she loves to add a little spiced honey and a splash of rum to the mix!

A big HeySmokies thank you to Lisa and Annita for sharing this delicious family recipe tradition and kudos to Annita for the expert photography. If you have a family recipe or a Smoky Mountain memory you would like to share with us we would love to hear from you! Happy holidays everyone!

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