Lebkuchen is a traditional German Christmas cookie, I believe the translation is “Love Cake”. It is said that they were originally invented by monks, some even thought that these cookies were magical, and often worn as good luck charms to ward off evil spirits. Traditional Christmas Cookies that are sold in the open air Christmas markets in Germany are more what I’d consider Gingerbread, rich with a good deal spices and molasses, and cut into shapes. Sounds like a familiar Christmas cookie we all know and love well right? (Pfefferkuchen which translates as pepper cake.) Just as often as I see gingerbread referenced for the term “lebkuchen” I’ve seen a lot of recipes for honey bars or honey cakes. (cookies) This variety of recipes is a dough that doesn’t have quite as much spice, it uses honey and they are typically a softer cookie. Who knows what the real explanation is, I figure Lebkuchen is just a round up expression that denotes quite simply Christmas cookies. If you’ve followed my mead posts you’ll know that honey often does refer to love and romance. (honeymoon, honey lips etc.) For many years honey was considered a gift from the gods, and it was the only sweetener available for some time so it was used pretty much exclusively used in medieval baking. It seems pretty ideal for me to assume the “love cookie” is a honey variety of the holiday biscuit. Regardless, I think its safe to assume that honey cookies or cakes and gingerbread are quite possibly Germany’s official Christmas cookies.
This is my recipe variation of Lebkuchen. In my house gingerbread is gingerbread, and I’ve usually got a wide spread of molasses rich cookies because I LOVE spicy molasses cookies. For my version or Lebkuchen I wanted something distinctly different from my usual molasses cookies. I’ve made a few variations of this recipe over the years and it has needed a bit of tweaking, but this is the best variation yet. Traditional Lebkuchen, stollen and gingerbrad recipes uusually involve nuclear colored candied fruit product or candied citrus peel…if you can’t tell I hate that stuff. I dry my Lebkuchen out so that they’re a bit harder, you don’t have to do this but it is nice if you are keeping them on the counter in a jar or shipping them to loved ones. If you want them soft and chewy, simply skip the drying process. I really never grow tired of dipping Christmas cookies in gluwein, eggnog, milk or even coffee.
My recipe is for an almond and honey cookie with fruit jam to help flavor it. You can substitute orange marmalade for a more traditional orange flavor that is usually found in fruit cakes and fruity cookies. You can also use molasses as well as honey, one or the other if you’d like. You can vary the spices to your own tastes, I prefer cardamom, clove, cinnamon and ginger. Play with it and make your own traditions, create your own memories.
- 2/3 cup honey
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter (melted)
- 2 eggs
- 3 tablespoons marmalade
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups all purpose unbleached flour (Substitute some Sprouted or Oat Flour if you like)
- 1/2 cup ground almonds (coarse ground)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
- In a large bowl combine the wet ingredients. I usually melt the butter in a bowl and then put the honey in. Since my home is fairly cold if necessary I gently warm the honey in a pan of simmering water or in the microwave. The warm butter helps smooth out the honey. As long as your mixture is still lukewarm you can combine the remaining wet ingredients and stir to combine. Combine dry ingredients, not including 1 cup of the flour. (You will mix this in last) Stir everything together until smooth in consistency. Once your mixture is smooth stir in the remaining one cup of flour. It will be somewhat stiff., stiffer if you did not use preserves.
- Using a cookie dough disher scoop even mounds of cookie dough onto a lined baking sheet, about an inch or so apart. They do not really spread that much. Bake 8-10 minutes and remove from the oven. Do this with all of the cookies until no dough remains. Allow them to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack. You can ice them once they are fully cooled or you can dry them out.
- To glaze them I simply mixed up the glaze and dipped the rounded side of each cookie into the glaze. Swirl it slightly to let excess glaze drip off and flip right side up onto the drying rack. Allow to dry fully before packaging.