Traditional Lebkuchen recipe

 

Lebkuchen are traditional German Christmas treats which are also popular in Austria and other European countries. Lebkuchen are sweet spiced biscuits made from ground nuts and/or flour depending on the recipe you use, honey and spices. Water or butter are used sparingly if at all. Due to the high sugar content in Lebkuchen, they keep well so you can make them in November and enjoy them all the way through December. Honey is the key element which binds the other ingredients in the dough together. Some Lebkuchen recipes call for up to 85% honey and sugar when compared to flour and ground nuts contents. There are lots of regional variations and some specialty Lebkuchen (Elisenlebkuchen from Nuremberg) are made entirely without flour, using only ground almonds and hazelnuts.

Traditional Lebkuchen
Traditional Lebkuchen

This post features a Lebkuchen recipe made primarily with rye flour. The recipe is quick, straightforward and authentic. The dough is beautifully versatile. You can use different cookie cutters for different shapes and decorate with nuts, white icing or a dark glossy chocolate sauce.

Authentic Lebkuchen

Before I jump into the Lebkuchen recipe, I put together a few essential Lebkuchen need-to-knows.

The Lebkuchen spices

Lebkuchengewürz is the Lebkuchen spice mix which typically includes ground cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, cardamom and other ground spices. Make your own spice blend and adjust the spices you use to suit your taste. Here is my favourite spice combination.

Lebkuchen spice mix ingredients

  • 30g ground cinnamon
  • 9g ground cloves
  • 2g ground allspice
  • 2g ground ginger
  • 2g ground cardamom
  • 2g ground coriander
  • 1g ground anise
  • 1g ground nutmeg
  • 1g ground mace

The Lebkuchen shape

Traditionally, Lebkuchen are large rounds of about 11 cm in diameter. There are also Lebkuchen hearts which are common at Christmas markets and fairs around the year are often inscribed with icing. Use whatever cookie cutters you have, but adjust the baking time accordingly as smaller biscuits will bake through more quickly.

The Lebkuchen tin

Once the Lebkuchen biscuits are baked, it’s best to store them in a tin. I really like the Garden Trading biscuit tins but there are plenty of options available. You can add a piece of apple into the tin to store and keep the biscuits moist.

Authentic Lebkuchen recipe

This is a typical Lebkuchen recipe as we would make in Austria. Lebkuchen are also called Lebzelten in Austria. The key ingredients in this Lebkuchen recipe are rye flour, honey, ground almonds and the spice mix.

German Lebkuchen
German Lebkuchen

 

Lebkuchen
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Traditional Lebkuchen Recipe

This is an authentic recipe for Lebkuchen, translated from German. My mum uses the recipe when she does our family's Christmas baking. The rye-based Lebkuchen recipe is super delicious and the Lebkuchen biscuits are wonderfully moist with a beautiful crumb.

Ingredients

Lebkuchen ingredients

    Main dough

    • 400 g white rye flour
    • 200 g ground almonds
    • 250 g honey
    • 175 g brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 30 g Lebkuchen spices see above

    Lebkuchen topping

    • 1 egg for brushing
    • Almond slices for decorating

    Lebkuchen icing (optional)

    • 3 egg whites
    • 200 g icing sugar
    • 7 g cornflour

    Combine the above icing ingredients and whisk until creamy.

      Instructions

      How to make Lebkuchen

        Day 1

        1. Combine the honey, sugar and eggs in a bowl and whisk vigorously.
        2. Sieve the rye flour, ground almonds, bicarb of soda and spices into a bowl and whisk to mix well.
        3. Add the honey, sugar and egg mixture to the dry ingredients to make a dough. It'll be sticky but shouldn't be too wet to handle.
        4. Shape into a ball, place back into the bowl, cover and rest in the fridge overnight.

        Day 2

        1. On a floured work surface, use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out the dough to 5mm thickness. Make sure you are able to move the dough at all times so it doesn't stick when you cut out the cookies.
        2. Prepare a baking tray with baking paper.
        3. Use your cookie cutters to cut out the biscuits and place on the baking tray. Make sure to leave a little space in between as they will expand in the oven. Repeat the process until you have no dough left.
        4. Brush the dough shapes with egg wash and decorate with almonds slices.
        5. Bake for 10 - 15 mins (depending on size) at 180°C.
        6. Cool on a wire rack

        Enjoy the Lebkuchen straight away or store in a tin. Serve with Glühwein, coffee or tea.

        Christmas Tree Bread Recipe

         

        I’ve been asked about Christmas breads as gifts recently so I put on my thinking cap. A lovely Christmas baking treat should be sweet and rich yet not too heavy and take the shape, of course, of something Christmassy. Try this Christmas tree bread recipe, it won’t disappoint!

        For the bread dough I adapted a recipe for Austrian Kipferl. My grandmother used to bring home Kipferl from our local bakery; they are a delicious treat, using dough enriched with milk and butter.

        Christmas tree bread
        Christmas tree bread (cut-out)
        Christmas tree bread with pull apart buns
        Christmas tree bread with pull-apart buns (its shape could still be improved…!)

        Christmas Tree Bread Recipe

        Day 1

        Sponge

        • 100g plain flour
        • 100g water
        • A pinch of dried yeast
        1. Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl and leave to ripen at room temperature for about 20 hours.

        Water roux (helps to make the bread tender and fluffy)

        • 15g plain flour
        • 75g semi-skimmed milk
        1. Put the flour and milk into a small saucepan.
        2. Whisk the ingredients together over a small flame and heat the mixture stirring continuously until it thickens.
        3. Take the pan off the heat and continue whisking for a further two minutes.
        4. Leave to cool, then place in the fridge for at least four hours. I usually put the water roux together at the same time as the poolish.

        Day 2

        Dough ingredients

        • Sponge
        • Water roux
        • 280g plain flour
        • 80g semi-skimmed milk
        • 20g sourdough starter (wheat)
        • 1.5g dried yeast
        • 3 tbsp sugar
        • 7g salt
        • 60g unsalted butter at room temperature
        1. Combine all the ingredients (except butter) and knead for 10 minutes.
        2. Add the butter and continue to combine for another 5 minutes.
        3. Place into a bowl, cover and rest for 60 minutes at room temperature.
        4. After another quick knead, put the covered bowl into the fridge for 12 hours.

        Day 3

        Extra ingredients

        • 1 egg (for brushing)
        • A few tbsp of coarse sugar
        1. Take the dough out of the fridge and keep it at room temperature for 2 hours or so to bring the dough temperature back to normal.
        2. Divide the dough into 2 parts and shape into rounds.
        3. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
        4. For the cut-out bread
          Use a rolling pin to roll each dough piece into an oval shape, approximately 7 mm thick. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Using a dough scraper, cut out a Christmas tree shape.
          For the pull-apart bread
          Shape 24 dough balls and arrange them on a second baking tray lined with parchment paper.
        5. Brush with egg wash.
        6. Cover (best to be done with another baking tray as a tea towel would stick to the egg washed dough) and leave to prove for 90 minutes at room temperature.
        7. 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 210°C.
        8. Brush one more time with egg wash, leave to briefly dry for 1 minute, then place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
        Pull apart bread
        Pull apart bread

        Et voilà – two perfect Christmas treats for your festive friends!