Lebkuchen are traditional German Christmas cookies that are subtly reminiscent of gingerbread. Although actually, we prefer to refer to them as “moments of perfectly spiced cut-out cookie deliciousness.”
Lebkuchen are traditional German Christmas cut-out cookies that are subtly reminiscent of gingerbread with their subtle notes of ginger and cinnamon and citrus. They’re surprisingly easy to make and ridiculously spectacular to taste, whether you glaze them with melted chocolate or frost them with a simple confectioners’ sugar icing or even leave them plain.
Why Our Testers Loved This
Our testers all agreed that the dough for these cookies was “easy to put together” and “easy to handle.” They loved the warm spice flavor that was prominent in the finished cookies.
Notes on Ingredients
- Molasses–Choose light or dark unsulfured molasses, but avoid blackstrap molasses as it will be too bitter.
- Unsalted butter–If you substitute salted butter, don’t add a pinch of salt to the dough.
- Self-rising flour–To make your own self-rising flour we use this very easy equation: 1 cup of self-rising flour = 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt + 1 cup all-purpose flour. You’ll want to double the amounts in this equation for the following recipe.
How to Make This Recipe
- Combine the honey, molasses, butter, sugar, and citrus zest in a small pot. Heat, stirring frequently, until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
- Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the melted butter mixture and the egg and mix until the dough comes together. Knead the dough until smooth.
- Cover and chill the dough for at least 4 hours. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment.
- Roll the dough to 1/4-inch (6-mm) thick. Cut out shapes, re-rolling the scraps as needed. Bake the cookies just until the edges turn brown.
- Make the glaze. For chocolate, melt the chocolate and oil together and stir until smooth. For icing, whisk water or lemon juice into the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.
- Decorate the cookies. Top each cookie with chocolate glaze or confectioners’ sugar icing. Decorate with edible silver balls, if desired.
They are traditional German Christmas cookies that date back to the 14th century. They are made with a variety of nuts, spices, and often candied citrus, although the quantity of nuts varies between regions.
Given that everyone is going to ask you what these moments of perfectly spiced cut-out cookie deliciousness are called, you’re probably going to want to know how to say their name. The pronunciation of lebkuchen is leb-koo-khuh n.
Yes. Lebkuchen cookies can be frozen in an airtight container between layers of wax or parchment paper for up to 3 months.
- If your dough is too stiff to roll after removing it from the fridge, let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
- Store lebkuchen in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage.
- To maintain the soft, chewy texture that lebkuchen is known for, the cookies are traditionally stored with an apple wedge in the container.
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- Cookie cutters; piping bags (optional)
For the lebkuchen
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons molasses (NOT blackstrap molasses)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
- Finely grated zest of 1/2 orange (about 1 teaspoon)
- Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon (about 1/2 teaspoon)
- 1 3/4 cups self-rising flour plus more for kneading
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- A pinch ground cloves
- A pinch salt
- 1/3 cup ground almonds
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- Edible silver balls (dragées)
For the chocolate glaze
- 1 cup milk or dark chocolate chopped
- 1 tablespoon sunflower or other mild vegetable oil
For the white icing
- 2 cups confectioners sugar
- 2 to 3 tablespoons water or lemon juice
Make and bake the lebkuchen
- In a small saucepan, combine the honey, molasses, butter, brown sugar, and orange and lemon zests and place over low heat, stirring, until the butter has melted and everything is well combined. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt together and then stir in the ground almonds.
- Add the melted butter mixture and the beaten egg to the flour mixture and mix until a dough forms. (The dough will be pretty sticky. That’s okay.)
- Turn the dough onto a well floured surface and knead, pushing and pressing the dough onto the work surface and turning it around often. Do this for just a minute or so, until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Roll the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch (6 mm) on a lightly floured surface.
- Use your cookie cutters to stamp out shapes and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Gather up the dough scraps, roll the dough again, and cut as many shapes as you can. (Alternatively, you can simply cut the cookie dough into 2-inch squares.)
- Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until just beginning to brown at the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.
Make the chocolate glaze
- Combine the chocolate and oil in a heatproof bowl placed over but not touching a pan of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat and then let cool for 10 minutes before using. (Alternately, you can melt the chocolate and oil in a heatproof bowl in the microwave on low in 10-second increments.)
Make the white icing
- Sift the confectioners sugar into a bowl and gradually whisk in enough water or lemon juice to make a smooth icing that coats the back of a spoon. If a runnier icing is desired, add more water or juice a few drops at a time.
Decorate the lebkuchen
- Spread the chocolate glaze or icing over the cookies with a knife, offset spatula, or back of a spoon. Decorate with silver balls or pipe more glaze or icing over the cookies with a piping bag. Let the chocolate or icing set completely before serving.
- Storage–Store your cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. To maintain the soft texture, keep an apple wedge in the container.
- Freezing–The lebkuchen can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
- Self-rising flour–To make your own self-rising flour use 2 2/3 teaspoons baking powder + 3/4 teaspoon salt + 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This lebkuchen recipe yields a perfect rendition of the classic German cookie. The flavor from the spices comes through clearly and the cookies work perfectly with either the chocolate glaze or the white icing.
The dough is very easy to handle. I kept it in the refrigerator overnight. I found that the dough was easiest to roll out after about 15 minutes out of the fridge. Right out of the refrigerator it was a bit too stiff to handle.
I used a 3-inch cookie cutter and the yield was 24 cookies. The cookies held their shape perfectly in the oven. I used a 72% dark chocolate for the glaze. The icing or glaze can be drizzled, piped, or spread with a small offset spatula.
Spice cookies are some of my favorite cookies. The warming scent and flavor is delicious any time of year and this recipe did not disappoint.
I was afraid that the amount of ginger would be overwhelming but it turned out perfectly. The hint of citrus from the lemon and orange zest was a wonderfully subtle complement.
These are very easy to put together. You definitely need the flour when kneading as the dough was very sticky due to the molasses and honey.
The basic confectioners’ sugar glaze was delicious, but the chocolate wasn’t a great match for me. I used 60% bittersweet chocolate and the hint of bitterness it added didn’t seem to match up that well with the spice bouquet in the cookie. Otherwise, I could happily munch away on these all afternoon.
This is a lovely recipe……the flavours of the spices, the citrus and even the chocolate in the glaze all come together in a most appealing way! Mine didn’t come out quite a pretty as the picture but they sure taste good!
Karen, your lebkuchen are gorgeous! Well done! Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know.