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

        • Combine the honey, sugar and eggs in a bowl and whisk vigorously.
        • Sieve the rye flour, ground almonds, bicarb of soda and spices into a bowl and whisk to mix well.
        • 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.
        • Shape into a ball, place back into the bowl, cover and rest in the fridge overnight.

        Day 2

        • 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.
        • Prepare a baking tray with baking paper.
        • 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.
        • Brush the dough shapes with egg wash and decorate with almonds slices.
        • Bake for 10 - 15 mins (depending on size) at 180°C.
        • 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!

        Sourdough Stollen Recipe

         

        The traditional German Christmas bread called Stollen is a rich, sweet fruit bread made with butter, milk, spices and rum-soaked dried fruit and nuts. Here I present my very own version of Xmas Stollen – my sourdough Stollen recipe for all you adventurous bakers out there.

        To provide some background: I’ve always wanted to be a Xmas Stollen lover. However, it usually contains a few ingredients I’m not really a huge fan of such as candied orange & citrus peel and marzipan. Heaps of butter and sugar are normally used to preserve the bread for weeks (the typical proportions for traditional German Christmas Stollen according to the Dresdner Stollen Association are a minimum of 50% butter and 65% golden raisins when compared to flour weight).

        So, I decided to piece together my own Stollen recipe with #thebreadshebakes rules, a sourdough version with a little bit of added yeast 🙂

        Stollen Slices
        Freshly Baked Christmas Stollen Slices

        Why this is the best Christmas Stollen recipe for me

        This is what I set out to achieve:

        • No candied orange, citrus peel or glacé cherries
        • Only high-quality organic dried fruit (yet not too much of it)
        • No marzipan roll in the middle of the Stollen – instead; homemade almond and pistachio paste mixed into the dough
        • Reduced fat and sugar content. A thick layer of butter and icing sugar is usually applied as topping but I’m opting for egg wash and almond flakes instead.
        • It’s a sweet treat and I don’t mind it being a little “merrier” than usual 🙂
        Stollen Slices
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        Sourdough Stollen Recipe

        Note that all the ingredients in this recipe should be at room temperature, so warm the milk slightly if it’s just out of the fridge. This recipe will give you approx. 20 slices of delicious Stollen. Use Austrian Stroh rum for a deliciously authentic rum-flavour. I've added a little bit of yeast into the recipe to lift the rather heavy dough.

        Ingredients

        Stollen ingredients

          FOR THE FRUIT & NUT SOAKER

          • 100 g organic sultanas
          • 100 g dried organic cranberries
          • 100 g blanched almonds roughly chopped
          • 50 g Stroh rum
          • Seeds from a vanilla pod

          FOR THE SOURDOUGH

          • 25 g wheat sourdough starter
          • 100 g plain flour
          • 100 g water

          FOR THE ALMOND & PISTACHIO PASTE

          • 25 g ground almonds
          • 25 g ground pistachios
          • 25 g caster sugar
          • 25 g icing sugar
          • 50 g water
          • ½ lemon grated zest and juice

          FOR THE DOUGH

          • 475 g plain organic flour German type 550
          • 100 g caster sugar
          • 8 g dried yeast
          • 80 g butter softened
          • 1 egg beaten
          • 200 ml milk
          • ¼ tsp salt
          • ½ lemon grated zest
          • 1 pinch each of ground nutmeg ground cloves, ground cinnamon, ground allspice
          • 3 cardamom pods

          FOR THE TOPPING

          • 1 egg
          • A handful of almond flakes

          Instructions

          How to make German Christmas Stollen

            ON THE EVENING BEFORE BAKING

            • Mix the dried fruit and chopped almonds with the rum, cover with cling film and leave overnight. This hydrates everything slightly and ensures that the fruit and nuts do not soak up too much liquid from the dough.
            • It’s really important to use good quality ingredients here as the flavours will really unfold in the baked Christmas Stollen and there is a remarkable difference in the taste.
            • I’ve used organic dried fruit (organic medium currants and organic dried cranberries) and almonds from Real Foods which are just perfect. The currants add lovely bursts of intense flavour and are high in antioxidants and vitamins while the cranberries give the dough a delicious sweetness while being a great source of vitamin C and dietary fibre.
            • Prepare the sourdough by mixing the above ingredients together and covering the bowl with cling film.
            • Prepare the almond and pistachio paste, cover with cling film and keep in the fridge overnight. The paste should be nice and smooth, not too wet or dry.

            ON THE DAY OF BAKING

            • Crack the shell of the cardamom pods with a knife handle and remove the seeds. Give the seeds a quick grind with a pestle and mortar. Don’t use ground cardamom as it just doesn't have the same fragrant, fresh flavour.
            • I’ve used organic cardamom pods from Real Foods which are super aromatic and perfect for Stollen.
            • Mix together the following ingredients to form a dough:
            • Flour, 150g sourdough, caster sugar, yeast, milk, butter, egg, 120g homemade almond & pistachio paste
            • Knead for 10 mins to develop a smooth and satiny dough. It’ll be a little sticky but that’s fine.
            • Then work in the fruits, nuts, lemon zest and spices, distributing them as evenly as possible.
            • Now leave the dough in a warm place, covered with a kitchen towel or cling film, until it has doubled in size (the time this takes can vary depending on the room temperature; approx. 1.5 hours, but this could take longer!).
            • Knock the air out of the risen dough and knead for another minute or two.
            • Shape the dough into an oval loaf (I’m not too bothered with the traditional fold).
            • Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and cover with a moist kitchen towel.
            • Leave in a draught-free place for its second proof. Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, this could be done in one hour, but for me this lasted almost three.
            • Use your finger to make a small dent in the dough. If the dent remains, the bread is ready to bake. If it disappears, the dough needs some more time.
            • Preheat the oven to 190°C (gas mark 5).
            • Prepare some egg wash (combine an egg and a table spoon of water and whisk together).
            • When the dough is ready, brush the Stollen with the egg wash and sprinkle with almond flakes.
            • Bake in the oven on the lowest shelf for 1 hour 15 mins. If it browns too quickly, protect the bread by covering the top with tin foil. I do this after 25 mins initial baking time.
            • Use a cocktail stick or skewer to check if the dough has fully baked through as you would with a cake. The internal temperature of the loaf should be 94°C, my Thermapen is proving invaluable once more!
            • Allow it to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before lifting it onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

             

            Dried organic cranberries
            Organic dried cranberries
            Roughly Chopped Blanched Almonds
            Roughly Chopped Blanched Almonds
            Almond and pistachio paste
            Almond and pistachio paste

            Cardamom pods and seeds

            Tipsy Christmas Stollen
            The Best Ever Homemade Christmas Stollen

            Serve in relatively thick slices with strong coffee or tea and good quality butter. Lightly toast if you would like to heat it through.

            Stollen Slice Close Up
            Stollen Slice with a nice crunchy crust!

            Where to buy Christmas Stollen in the UK

            Over the last few years, I’ve started to bake Christmas Stollen to order as it keeps and ships well. If you’re interested in a homemade Stollen delivery, please just get in touch via the contact form here to order your special Christmas treat online.

            Walnut bread recipe in four variations

             

            Having been home in Austria for Christmas, I brought back a big pack of shelled walnuts from the trees in my parents’ garden. A good time to experiment with walnut bread! Try my walnut bread recipe below – a sourdough walnut loaf using white wheat and wholegrain rye flour.

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            My walnut bread is a slightly sweet bread and as such makes a great accompaniment to cheese boards with grapes, apricots or figs.

            Walnut Bread Recipe – In Four Variations

            Walnuts are super versatile and can be incorporated into bread in various different ways. Although the main walnut bread recipe remains the same, have a look through the walnut preparation options below to pick your favourite before starting.

            Walnut bread
            Walnut bread

            Ingredients

            Sourdough

            • 50g rye sourdough starter
            • 100g wholegrain rye flour
            • 100g water

            Main dough

            • 350g strong white flour
            • 50g wholegrain rye flour
            • 8g salt
            • 190g water, lukewarm, if using the walnut paste (described below) OR
              260g water, lukewarm, for the other variations (as below)
            • 1 tbsp walnut oil (optional)
            • 200g walnuts in either of the below variations (e.g. 100g lightly crushed walnuts, 100g walnut paste or 200g caramelised walnuts). Lightly crushing your walnut halves with a rolling pin makes it easier for the oils to be released into the dough.

            Four different ways of preparing the walnuts –

            Caramelised walnuts
            Finely chop fresh rosemary leaves, you need 1 tbsp. Dry-roast 200g walnuts in a frying pan (i.e. without any oil). Add the finely chopped rosemary and 2 tbsp of honey and caramelise the walnuts. Be careful not to burn them. Let them cool on a plate.

            Mixed nuts with rum
            From the book Rustikale Brote aus deutschen Landen by Gerhard Kellner.
            For this recipe, you need 100g of walnut halves, lightly crushed, as well as 100g hazelnuts.
            Dry-roast the hazelnuts in a frying pan (no oil). Pour over 35ml of lukewarm water once finished roasting. In a separate pan, dry-roast the walnuts and cover with 3 tbsp of rum.
            Leave to soak overnight and drain any excess liquid.

            Walnuts soaked in milk
            Heat some milk until boiling – you’ll need enough to cover 200g walnuts in a small bowl. Cover the walnuts with boiling milk and leave to cool.
            Once cooled, drain any excess liquid.

            Walnut paste
            As per Dan Lepard’s book ‘The Handmade Loaf’.
            Make 100g walnut paste and also add 100g of halved or crushed walnuts into your final dough.
            For the paste, you need 50g of walnuts, 50g of water, 2 tbsp of honey, 20g melted butter (lightly browned) and a pinch of salt.
            Place all ingredients into the bowl of your hand blender and blend until you have a soft, smooth paste.

            How to make walnut bread

            Day 1

            1. Combine the sourdough ingredients in a medium bowl, cover and leave to rest at room temperature for 16 to 24 hours.

            Day 2

              1. Combine 200g of sourdough (the rest goes back into the fridge for your next bake) with the main dough ingredients and walnut paste if using, but don’t add the whole walnuts at this point.
              2. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. 
              3. Shape into a ball, place in a lightly floured bowl, cover and keep at room temperature for an hour or so. The dough should have visibly expanded during this time.
              4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.
              5. Use your fingers to flatten the dough and sprinkle the (lightly crushed, caramelised or soaked) walnuts over the surface.
              6. Work the dough to distribute the nuts evenly.
              7. Shape the dough into a round and place into a pre-floured proofing basket.
              8. Leave to rise for several hours at room temperature until fully proofed.
              9. Preheat the oven to 200°C and preheat your La Cloche baking dome at the same time (from cold) if using.

            Transfer the bread from proofing basket to the La Cloche plate or onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.

            1. With a sharp knife, make a few criss-cross cuts into the loaves just before baking.
            2. Bake for about 50 minutes. Take the La Cloche lid off for the last 10 minutes if using.
            3. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

            I love baking with walnuts. If you’d like to try a different walnut bread recipe, take a look at these posts also:

            Christmas Bread Wreath Recipe

             

            It’s nearly Christmas! Today I baked some beautiful Christmas bread wreaths inspired by Artisan Bread in Five. I’ve noted down this easy Christmas bread wreath recipe below. Try it – you’ll be rewarded with some very decorative festive breads.

            Christmas bread wreath
            Christmas bread wreath with rosemary – quite a looker!

            There are also some wonderfully adventurous Christmas bread and baking recipes in Trine Hahnemann’s beautifully presented book ‘Scandinavian Christmas‘.

            Christmas bread wreath
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            Christmas bread wreath recipe

            A simple white yeast bread dough is transformed into beautiful wreaths with the help of a pair of kitchen scissors and some rosemary sprigs.

            Ingredients

            Ingredients (for 3 Christmas bread wreaths)

            • 1 kg strong bread flour plus a little extra for dusting
            • 650 g water lukewarm
            • 21 g 3 sachets dried yeast
            • 1.5 tablespoons honey
            • 1 level tablespoon salt
            • A few sprigs of fresh rosemary finely chopped
            • 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves

            Instructions

            PREPARE THE BREAD DOUGH

            • Add 200ml of the lukewarm water, the honey, 1 sachet of yeast and 4 tablespoons of flour into a large bowl and mix together with a balloon whisk. Don’t add salt at this stage!
            • Leave to rest in a warm place for about ½ an hour.
            • Add the remaining ingredients to make the dough. Start with the flour, then add half the water followed by the yeast, salt, rosemary, thyme and finally the rest of the water, using a fork to stir initially until the dough starts to combine.
            • Knead for 10 minutes to form an elastic dough.
            • Place in a lightly floured bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rest in a warm, draught-free place until it has doubled in size (approximately an hour).

            SHAPE & BAKE THE WREATHS

            • Knock the air out of the dough with your hands.
            • If required - lightly dust the dough to avoid it sticking to your hands.
            • Flatten the dough, then divide into three equal parts. You can use a serrated knife to help with this.
            • Form each part into a roll (approximately 25 cm long), then combine the ends into a ring i.e. the wreath-form. Wet your hands with warm water to help fuse the ends together.
            • Place each wreath on a piece of baking paper and allow to rest for half an hour in a warm place.
            • Preheat the oven to 220°C.
            • Lightly dust the dough with flour.
            • Using kitchen scissors make deep cuts into the dough ring. Cut almost to the bottom of the wreath to achieve the desired effect.
            • Carefully place the resulting ‘wedges’ out away from the ring to form points.
            • As it’s Christmas, I used some rosemary sprigs to decorate the wreath and rock salt to garnish the top of the bread wreaths.
            • Slide the ring and the parchment paper right onto the wire rack (or baking stone if you have one) and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and hollow when tapped at the bottom.

            An excellent addition to our annual Christmas lunch. We had it with a warming celery, leek and potato soup.

            Three Christmas bread wreaths
            Looking and tasting great, merry Christmas!