Niederbayerische Lebkuchen

by Anke Perez
(San Antonio, TX)

Here is the Lebkuchen recipe my family uses. The dough can rest in the fridge for several months.
The famous German bakeries make the dough for next Christmas in January to let enzymes develop and spices mellow. I have kept mine in the fridge for up to 4 month... and live to pass the recipe on to you.

The recipe uses hartshorn (bakers ammonia) and the dough will smell like it, both while resting and during baking. DON’T TASTE THE UNBAKED DOUGH.
The ammonia dissipates during baking and leaves no taste in the fully baked cookies.

T = tablespoon
t = teaspoon


250 g honey
250 g brown sugar (original recipe calls for beet sugar, not easy to find here)
600 g AP flour
125 g ground hazelnuts or almonds
1 egg
50 g mixed candied fruit for fruit cake, minced very finely
50 g mixed dried fruit, minced finely
2-3 t. Lebkuchen spice
15 g hartshorn dissolved in
1 T. Alcohol, rum, brandy or some such

Heat the honey and sugar in a pot, stirring until sugar is dissolved and it simmers lightly. Set aside to cool.
Put the fruit and candied peels with 1 T. of the flour into the blender and chop into almost a paste.
Or mince by hand without the flour, set aside.
Mix flour and spices, set aside.
Dissolve hartshorn in alcohol.

Pour the honey/sugar mix into a mixer, stir.
Add the egg, stir.
Add the hartshorn in alcohol, stir.
Switch to the dough hook and add the fruit, stir.
Add the nuts, stir.
Gradually add the flour and knead. Your mixer will not thank you.
The complete dough will be smooth, HEAVY AND DENSE.
Place it into a bowl with a tight lid and keep it in the fridge until baking. In the beginning it will smell sharply spicy, as it matures the smell will change to a warm pleasant aroma.

Preheat the oven to 400 F, place rack in the middle of oven.
Line a baking sheet or two with parchment.

Roll out the dough finger thick (about1/2”), on a floured board.
Cut out desired shapes and place on the baking sheet. It will smell like ammonia while baking.
Bake about 20-30 min. Until the tops are dry looking and have a slight give and the bottoms just begin to brown.

Let cool completely then dip into a sugar glaze or chocolate, maybe place a nut or sprinkles on top, press in lightly and let dry cmpletely.
Keep in a tin for a week or two before eating.
They keep well and last in a tin for 1-3 month.
They taste better with age.

Guten Appetit

Comments for Niederbayerische Lebkuchen

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by: Anonymous

What does the ammonia do? What if you left it out?

Hartshorn, bakers ammonia
by: Anke

Hartshorn (bakers ammonia) is a heat activated rising agent, not moisture activated like baking powder. Baking powder starts the rising process as soon as it is combined with moist dough and looses its rising properties within hours.
Hartshorn is a traditional leavening agent that is only used in very dense and flatly rolled out doughs, like German Lebkuchen. It is inactive in the dough until the cookies are baked. Even if the dough rests in the fridge for several month.. When the internal baking temperature reaches 120 F, it turns into gases, that have the strength to lift the extremely dense dough and produce a porous texture. When the gases are released and bake out, it stinks like ammonia. Nothing of that remains after baking. THE UNBAKED DOUGH SHOULD NOT BE EATEN.
It is soldin small glass jars that need to kept tightly sealed or the hartshorn will evaporate. I keep my jar in a zip-lock bag, in the fridge.
Hartshorn was traditionally made from powdered deer horns, hence the name.
If you leave it out you may end up with a flat, dense and hard cookie, like a brick.
To buy, look at (no, I don’t work for them).

My Familie
by: Anonymous

Ich tat dies für meine Familie und sie liebten es.

by: Anke

Schön dass es ihnen geschmeckt hat.

Hartshorn measurements.
by: Anke

Many scales don’t measure right. The way my grandmothers measured it, was by using a bread knife and get a good, large heap on the tip of it and then use that as a neasurement.

by: Brigitte

Just making the lebkuchen and mine dough is all crumbled what can I do to get it together?

Crumbly Dough
by: Anonymous

Knead in a bit of water 1-2 T at a time, until the dough comes together. You could knead by hand for more control.
It should be heavy and have the consistency of modelling clay, no crumbles.

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