You can think of lebkuchen as gingerbread’s German cousin. Both cookies rely heavily on cinnamon and spices, taste best glazed, and are traditionally made around the holidays.
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However, lebkuchen and gingerbread have a few important differences.
Unlike gingerbread, which is made with molasses, lebkuchen is often (though not always) made with honey. Many believe that this is because honey was one of the only widely available sweeteners during the 13th century, when lebkuchen was first made.
Another difference is that lebkuchen recipes frequently include candied citrus and nuts, which give lebkuchen a distinctly different taste than gingerbread.
But despite their differences, both gingerbread and lebkuchen taste great with a cup of hot tea on a cold winter day. Make sure to include this lebkuchen recipe in your holiday cookie baking plans this year!
Makes about 4 dozen small cookies
For the cookies:
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup honey
- ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon lemon extract
- ½ cup finely chopped blanched almonds
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped orange peel, lemon peel, or a combination
For the glaze:
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 4 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon brandy or lemon extract
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine the honey and brown sugar. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture begins to bubble. Remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the egg, lemon extract, almonds and citrus peel. Stir to combine.
Add the flour mixture, and stir until combined. The dough will be somewhat like drop cookie dough in consistency: firm, but sticky. Cover the dough in the bowl, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight (overnight is even better).
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly flour a work surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle measuring approximately 9″ x 13″. Trim the edges to make them neat (your rectangle is now probably more like 8″ x 12″).
Cut into small rectangles, approximately 1″ x 2″ each (though you can alter this based on your preference). Place them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper with a little space around each portion.
Bake for 16-20 minutes, or until puffy, golden on top and set in the centers. Remove from the oven and let cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cookies cool, make the glaze. Whisk together all of the ingredients until smooth and combined. Drizzle each cookie with the glaze, and garnish with a few extra almond pieces if desired. If garnishing with almond pieces, scatter them on top of the cookies directly after applying glaze, as they won’t stick once the glaze has set.
Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. These cookies freeze beautifully for up to 1 month.
Note: These cookies may be lighter or darker in color depending on the type of honey you use.
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