This Lebkuchen recipe is such an easy German Christmas recipe to make. It's made in one bowl, baked, decorated, and then cut. But the results ... the house smells like I'm back in Germany.
Memories ... working in the kitchen together with Mutti, making all those delicious Christmas German recipes. I love Christmas ... and the wonderful memories of time spent together with Mutti and my sisters.
For the traditional Lebkuchen spice, you'll need to go to a German deli or order it online. If not, you can use "pumpkin pie" or "gingerbread" spice.
There are slight differences, but they are similar enough and the final result will still be delicious.
If you don't have access to Lebkuchen spice, you can make your own by mixing together the following ground spices and adding this to the recipe.
Perhaps you're looking for these German gingerbread cookies that are so popular as well. These are also quite easy to make and would complement the Lebkuchen bars below.
Traditional German Lebkuchen are soft cookies that are often baked on Back Oblaten, which are thin wafers, sort of like communion wafers. They help keep the cookie dough from sticking to the baking sheets, and they come in three different sizes, depending on how small or large you like these delicious German cookies to be. I much prefer to use parchment paper instead, particularly since I was not overly fond of Oblaten as a child.
There are many different kinds of Lebkuchen cookies. Traditionally, you'll find the Nürnberger Lebkuchen, the Elisen Lebkuchen, the Lebkuchenherzen, the chocolate-filled ones, the ones with candied citron, the ones with ground nuts, and the list goes on. These are among the many of the traditional German Christmas cookies found at Christmas markets throughout Germany.
My German gingerbread cookie recipe is a basic Lebkuchen cookie. Nothing fancy. No nuts or candied fruit inside. Just plain Lebkuchen with its wonderful aroma of warming spices, iced with either a chocolate glaze or a powdered sugar icing, and topped with nuts. Simply and deliciously wunderbar.
The recipe below is different, yet just as wonderfully delicious, in that it is not a cookie recipe, but a bar recipe.
This Lebkuchen bar recipe, also known as a honey cake, is so easy and quick to make, which makes it a wonderful Christmas time recipe, especially if your holiday season tends to be quite busy.
It is made with many of the same classic ingredients as any traditional Lebkuchen recipe. Of course, it wouldn't be a Lebkuchen recipe without the Lebkuchen spice mix. This is what makes it quintessentially German. And then there's the candied citrus peel and fruit (which I suppose also makes this a fruit cake of sorts). Instead of the usual ground hazelnuts and ground almonds, I opted simply for chopped almonds.
To make these bars, start by preheating your oven to 350°F. You'll need a 15x10x1-inch baking tray. Grease it and set it aside. (I used my stoneware baking sheet below.)
Then, using a large bowl, beat one egg and 2 tablespoons of oil. Add half a cup of brown sugar and beat well. Add a third cup each honey and molasses, and mix well.
In a medium bowl, mix together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon of Lebkuchen spice mix, and half a teaspoon baking soda.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat until they are well mixed.
Now it's time to stir in a half cup of chopped almonds and a half cup of finely chopped mixed candied peel and fruit. (Typically, candied orange peel and candied lemon peel are most popular, but any candied citrus peel will do, including grapefruit peel and lime peel, as well as any candied citrus fruit. If you're not a fan of candied fruits or peels, you can replace them with 1 teaspoon each of grated orange zest and lemon zest.) The dough will be very thick.
Pour the sticky dough into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Dip a spoon into some water and use the back of the wet spoon to spread the dough. This will help keep the dough from sticking to the spoon while spreading.
Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until done.
Immediately upon removing the Lebkuchen from the oven, score individual bars (about 32 bars) into the top crust with a sharp knife.
Now make the icing sugar glaze: beat an egg white, one and a half cups powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice together in a small bowl until completely smooth. Spread the glaze evenly over the warm bars.
Decorate each scored bar with candied fruit and/or nuts of your choice. Mine (pictured above) are decorated with either green candied cherries and sliced almonds, or walnut halves.
Place the decorated Lebkuchen on a cooling rack and let cool completely.
Once cooled, cut all the way through at the score marks to make individual bars.
Store the bars in an airtight container at room temperature. Place a piece of waxed paper on top of the bars in the container and add a slice or two of apple on top of that. The apple will help keep the bars nice and soft.
These bars are best made early on in the Christmas season, because they get even better with age. Ideally, for the best flavor, let them age for at least 1 to 2 weeks.
Now, it's time to pass on these traditions to the grandkids. This easy bar recipe is fun to make together. It's filled with plenty of spices, candied fruit, and nuts. Just to make it better, more are added on top for decoration.
And that's where the fun comes in. The granddaughters use scissors to cut the candied fruit. Using that and nuts, they get creative making the tops look so pretty.
The taste? Similar to gingerbread, only better, I think! It's one of those bar cookie recipes that are a must in my German recipes file.
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